by Brian Solis, via PR 2.0

All your face are belong to us! For those who don’t remember, or know, the significance of that statement, read about it on Wikipedia.

Shot at SXSWi 2008

A few news outlets reached out to me for comment regarding the uproar sparked by the recent change to Facebook’s Terms of Service (ToS). It inspired a public response as I am not only someone who spends a significant amount of time in the online social field studying digital anthropology and new marketing, I’m also a willing participant in and contributor to the Facebook economy.

So, why is everyone upset?

When you read the new ToS, it’s actually quite alarming…

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.

If you were to summarize this section, it basically screams that your content is theirs to use when and how they want.

Naturally, bloggers, reporters, analysts, and influential Facebook pundits collectively responded in outrage and surprise. The news continues to draw angst, frustration, and also sparking debates as it permeates real world communities outside of Techmeme. Famed celebrity gossip blogger, Perez Hilton recently called for a boycott to the globally dominating social network.

Now, confused, somewhat hostile, and critical Facebook constituents have solicited a very human response from Zuckerberg. In it, he attempts to provide a deeper explanation and meaningful rationale behind the ToS modification. It is this response that is potentially difficult for everyday people to comprehend and accept as it is a stark reminder that the social web, is well, social.

“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.”

Mark Zuckerberg basically attempts to extinguish the flames of his critics by asking us to “trust his team” that our content will not be used in any way that we would disapprove. The ToS language is explicit in its design and ambition that could serve as the flashpoint for something not yet visible or public. However, their is a potentially disastrous risk involved for any company with a multi-billion dollar valuation and how it uses personal content. For this reason, Facebook’s actions are governed by the market and its ability to dictate the future success or failure of the network.

But to be honest, we should be worried less about how Zuckerberg and co. will use our content when compared to the bigger threat and perils associated with publicly sharing content in general.

His explanation essentially serves as a wake up call to users of all social networks and other forms of social media that what we share online is now shared not only with those we know and trust, but those we don’t know. And, trust is moot when content can freely traverse network to network and person to person without feedback, knowledge or insight until something or someone potentially forces a new revelation wrapped in unsolicited context. Trust gives way to blind intent.

What you share online, from pictures to updates to virtual gifts to videos, paints a picture of who you are and what you represent, regardless of your intentions. Everything accumulates into one vault that ultimately represents your social capital and Facebook, and any other social network – including Twitter – is merely providing you with the ability to define the impressions you feed, the perception you shape, and the personal brand that results from your online participation and contributions across the entire social web.

As Kara Swisher so brilliantly educates us, “Here’s the key definition of interactive: ‘Mutually or reciprocally active. That means once you send something to others, it is out there in cyberspace forever, never ever to return. And that goes double on social networking sites, where–let’s be honest–people egregiously overshare and then get all righteous when it is explained to them that sharing means, um, sharing. As in: You cannot take it back, if you have shared with 476 of your closest “friends,” your bikini shots from Cabo.”

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About the Author:

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture. His current book, Engage, is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to build and measure success in the social web.

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    coffee22 February 2009 3:02 pm

    Sadly, most people would not have looked closely enough to notice the change in Facebook’s Terms of Service… looks them social networkers are doing a good job of looking out for each other