Does Mark Zuckerberg Read Big Data and the Law?

Probably not.  On the other hand, we here at Big Data and the Law have said more than once that your information is the price of participating in social media.  For example – here.  Now Facebook has finally made it clear that your personal information is the price of using Facebook.   

This admission comes in revisions that Facebook has proposed to make to its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.  Specifically:

You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us.  This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you.

There you have it.  You agree that Facebook can monetize your stuff. 

In all fairness, this provision is in the current Facebook Data Use Policy:

Granting us this permission to use your information not only allows us to provide Facebook as it exists today, but it also allows us to provide you with innovative features and services we develop in the future that use the information we receive about you in new ways.

That kind of says it, but this latest revelation puts the matter beyond question.  At least they’re honest, I guess.  

But that’s not really the point.   The point is that giving Facebook these rights is a necessity if you have to be on Facebook for some reason.  To get timely information about your investments for example – and that’s wrong.  Although you could maintain a blank Facebook page, which some people do.

Two more points.  First, Facebook’s current Statement of Rights and Responsibilities says this:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

This differs from the proposed new provisions in that the rights you grant are more limited.  More importantly, in theory at least those rights end at some time.   Although, as a practical matter, they live in perpetuity unless everyone that you have shared your content with actually goes to the trouble of deleting it. 

Which brings us to this final observation – as far as I can see, the new language about selling your stuff doesn’t include a time limit. 

So, if you think the poetry you put out there on Facebook might be valuable someday – well don’t put it out there.  One day you’ll wake up and find out that Facebook has sold your best work to some vacuum cleaner company.  Then you’ll be sorry.



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