Let us be honest. When we first created our Myspace and Facebook accounts we probably never even glanced at the Terms of Service, much less read it through.
People obviously are much too busy to scroll through pages and pages of paragraphs that read like the U.S. Constitution.
But as soon as one person points out an apparent absurdity in a TOS, people all of a sudden lash out in revolt against something they agreed to in the first place.
Last week controversy broke out when word surfaced about Facebook’s change in its TOS.
The change essentially stated that all content uploaded on Facebook is Facebook’s property and that Facebook has the liberty to use the content for its own purposes, be they promotional or not, even after a user cancels his or her account.
When users found out, they immediately formed protest groups on Facebook, which grew quickly in numbers and caught the attention of Facebook’s CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg.
In response to the uproar that had ensued in result of the change, Zuckerberg decided to temporarily revert back to the old TOS, claiming a need to develop clearer communication to address certain issues.
What are the issues? In order for a social networking site like Facebook to operate, certain allowances must be made regarding the sharing of content.
For example, if a person sends a message to a friend on Facebook and later decides to delete that message or their account altogether, that does not change the fact that the message has been delivered to the friend’s inbox and may have been forwarded to a thousand other friends.
Facebook’s intent was to modify its TOS to ensure that it is not legally responsible, should problems with the given issue ever arise.
Now that the old TOS have been restored, users do not have to worry about their photographs and comments floating in Cyberspace for all eternity, right? Wrong.
Many are ignorant to the fact that what they post on the Internet will not soon be forgotten, thanks to Web archives.
Web archives collect and preserve content that surface on the Web for future reference, whatever those purposes may be.
Even more serious, if someone publishes an article online and later needs to make important corrections, there is no guarantee that when corrections are made, erroneous information will be deleted.
Even before Facebook’s change in TOS, they always promised that the company “may retain archived copies of your user content,” regardless of whether you choose to remove the content or not.
There is a lesson to be learned here.
First of all, do not share photographs that may be inappropriate or embarrassing years down the road on social networking Web sites, especially if you are conscious of your professional career.
Second, realize that any messages communicated over the Internet, especially on Facebook, can be forwarded to infinite sources without your control.
A social network is meant to connect you and your shared information with others.
With more than 175 million active accounts worldwide and a CEO worth 1.5 billion, Facebook benefited by yielding to the demands of its public.
It suspended the change to the TOS.
It especially sweetened the deal by allowing its users to leave suggestions on modifying the TOS in their “Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” group they created.
But it did not have to.
Clearly, Facebook knows how to protect itself and you should too.
If you decide to accept the TOS without actually reading the TOS, do not complain down the road when you realize you made a big mistake.