Is Facebook forever?

The blogosphere erupts after Facebook changes its policy on its rights to photos and video after a user leaves

You can leave Facebook, said Chris Walters in consumer advocacy blog The Consumerist, but a part of you will stay behind forever. The social-networking site’s terms of service used to say its rights to your original content expire when you close an account. But a new change says that Facebook now has the right to do “whatever it wants” with your old photos and comments. So don’t upload anything “you don't feel comfortable giving away forever, because it's Facebook's now.”

The Consumerist’s alarm sparked a predictable outcry from privacy advocates, said Caroline McCarthy in CNET News, but “most Facebook users won’t give a hoot.” Facebook eased some fears by quickly clarifying its rules, and stressing that it never claimed ownership of its users’ pictures and videos. And the website also promised always to respect your original privacy settings, so the general public will never see anything you wanted to keep within a small circle of friends.

Facebook is essentially saying that users have to “take it all on trust,” said Staci Kramer in The Washington Post. Co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said on the company’s blog that users own their content, but have to grant Facebook a license to it so the site can “help people share that information.” What that means is simple: When someone leaves, their account disappears, “but anything they've sent someone else lingers on, like the grin from the Cheshire Cat, whether they want it to or not.”

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The disturbing thing isn’t that Facebook gets to leave old pictures and videos online, said Sam Diaz in ZDNet. If my friend deletes his account, I should still be able to see "the picture that he uploaded and tagged of me and him." The troubling thing is that Facebook has the right to change its terms of service with or without telling me about it.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.