Facebook’s New Terms Of Service: “We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.”


Chris Walters
The Consumerist
February 17, 2009

This post has generated a lot of responses, including from Facebook. Check them out here.

Facebook’s terms of service (TOS) used to say that when you closed an account on their network, any rights they claimed to the original content you uploaded would expire. Not anymore.

Now, anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later.* Want to close your account? Good for you, but Facebook still has the right to do whatever it wants with your old content. They can even sublicense it if they want.

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.

That language is the same as in the old TOS, but there was an important couple of lines at the end of that section that have been removed:

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

Furthermore, the "Termination" section near the end of the TOS states:

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t
  • efoods

The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other.

Make sure you never upload anything you don’t feel comfortable giving away forever, because it’s Facebook’s now.

(Note that as several readers have pointed out, this seems to be subject to your privacy settings, so anything you’ve protected from full public view doesn’t seem to be usable in other ways regardless.)

Oh, you also agree to arbitration, naturally. Have fun with that.

Update: Several Facebook groups have formed to protest the new TOS:
"People Against the new Terms of Service (TOS)"
"FACEBOOK OWNS YOU: Protest the New Changes to the TOS!"
"Those against Facebook’s new TOS!"


Update 2: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has posted a response on the Facebook blog. A crude summary: "trust us, we’re not doing this to profit from you, it’s so we are legally protected as we enable you to share content with other users and services." His point, I think, is that there are interesting issues of ownership and rights clearance when you’re dealing with content shared in a social network:

Still, the interesting thing about this change in our terms is that it highlights the importance of these issues and their complexity. People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them-like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on-to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other. There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with.

Update 3: I just found this clarification posted earlier this afternoon on The Industry Standard. It was emailed to them by a Facebook representative and seems to confirm that your privacy settings trump all else:

We are not claiming and have never claimed ownership of material that users upload. The new Terms were clarified to be more consistent with the behavior of the site. That is, if you send a message to another user (or post to their wall, etc…), that content might not be removed by Facebook if you delete your account (but can be deleted by your friend). Furthermore, it is important to note that this license is made subject to the user’s privacy settings. So any limitations that a user puts on display of the relevant content (e.g. To specific friends) are respected by Facebook. Also, the license only allows us to use the info "in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof." Users generally expect and understand this behavior as it has been a common practice for web services since the advent of webmail. For example, if you send a message to a friend on a webmail service, that service will not delete that message from your friend’s inbox if you delete your account.


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