I don’t mean to ruin anyone’s fun but unfortunately it is necessary to have some awareness about the terms of service for online services like Facebook. It is not most people’s idea of fun to review in depth the terms of service for online services so most of us just agree to whatever so we can use the service.
D’Arcy Norman has an instructional post contrasting the Facebook terms of service with that of Flickr which appears to be more reasonable. Apparently Facebook has gone back to their previous terms of service which doesn’t give them ownership of all your content but if at least some people were not vigilant and complained this would have slipped under the radar until whoops … people eventually find out they have given up all their rights to their own content. I have had similar concerns about the slideshare online service.
Steve Dotto has been raising awareness in his cybersafe video and speeches about how youth especially need to know that content posted to social networking and other sites creates a permanent record of items that they may not be quite so eager to share in the future. The possible impacts are even more frightening when combined with social networking terms of service that remove a persons right to stop publishing their information in the most obvious and public of places.
Perhaps as a public service one of the online legal experts like Lawrence Lessig or our own Michael Geist could publish or point to a centralized guide to what terms of service for the major online social networking services people should be cautious of. There has been some discussions related to this topic on Michael’s blog particularly the comments made by “handler”. One interesting video has been posted by Vishal Agarwala who apparently has worked for a Facebook competitor. There might be a comment on this topic by Michael in his interview (video currently not available?) with the Calgary Chapter of the Fair Copyright for Canada group which is, perhaps ironically, a Facebook group.
If I find that a terms of service issues reference source exists somewhere I will let you know. (Could wikipedia be a possibility beyond just terms of service examples?). Until then we will all need to exercise some legal skills and read the fine print.
Update: Facebook today invites users to chime in on new terms of service. The new principles and process seem to be a step in the right direction.