On Facebook, forever

Facebook’s new terms of service are a disturbing reminder of a profile’s permanence.

Facebook, which celebrates its fifth birthday this month, has recently gained a lot of attention; Between the âÄúscandalâÄù of breast-feeding photographs and the websiteâÄôs updated terms of service on Feb. 4t Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been defending himself a lot lately. But many of us have been with our friend Facebook from the siteâÄôs humble beginnings. Remember when Facebook was only for the college-bound, and a collegiate e-mail was required to sign up? Now I use it to keep tabs on my 17-year-old brother. We veterans have seen the website change âÄî weâÄôve become accustomed to news feeds that often report more information about our friends than weâÄôd rather be privy. WeâÄôve been outraged at the âÄúnewâÄù Facebook, posted photos, stories and passed the word. President Barack Obama used it as a campaign tool. Companies filter advertisements through its pages âÄî personalized via the self-proclaimed interests listed in your profile. Some give it up for Lent. And some take a break from it forever. But should we all? There are 175 million Facebookers worldwide. On Sunday, a consumer-driven blog, The Consumerist, reported that perhaps Facebook has gone too far with the changes to its new terms of service. WhatâÄôs more is now that the terms have changed without user consent, Facebook users no longer have a choice to fully delete their profiles when their Facebooking days have begun to set. The blog labeled the new terms of service as, âÄúWe Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.âÄù This, to a certain extent, is now true. At the end of the terms, Facebook has removed these lines : âÄúYou 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.âÄù But thereâÄôs a catch. Facebook proceeds to list all of the areas that will survive the termination of your profile: from âÄúUser Content to Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, and Submissions,âÄù Facebook keeps it all. In an official post to the websiteâÄôs blog, Zuckerberg attempted to quell the outrage yesterday. According to PC World , he said, âÄúOur philosophy is that people own their information and control whom they share it with. When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people theyâÄôve asked us to share it with. Without this license, we couldnâÄôt help people share that information.âÄù True: Facebook would not exist without its users. But as BBC reports , Zuckerberg continued and wrote, âÄúIn reality, we wouldnâÄôt share your information in a way you wouldn’t want.âÄù To clarify, the new terms were set in place to ensure that information, perhaps a comment a user had left on a photograph, would remain on the website after they terminated their account. The site claims to keep it in line with similar services like e-mail. You donâÄôt lose your old love letters when your ex-boyfriend deletes and changes his e-mail address. But Facebook is a different beast. On Tuesday, CNN Money Fortune noted that if Facebook were a country, it would have a population nearly as large as BrazilâÄôs. Yet Zuckerberg asks that we simply âÄútrustâÄù him. The trouble is that Facebook demographics are changing. From its original target of 18- 24-year-olds, that age group now comprises only a quarter of Facebook users. Companies are realizing that Facebook is a remarkable marketing tool. They are signing on, and need to protect themselves, as well as their assets and companies. While Zuckerberg, like myself, is a young, intelligent individual âÄî heâÄôs only 24, his experience as a CEO is growing, but he is still learning. The company must realize that more than an individualâÄôs personal information and party photos are at stake. Good friends break trust, and a company cannot remain sustained on a whim. I tend to have good faith in all individuals âÄî most do trust until proven wrong. But somehow the idea that the company has access to the information of 175 million individuals across the globe, and 5 million more each month, should not require an act of blind faith. Continued consent for altered policy remains the issue âÄîespecially as Facebook has changed so drastically over the course of the four years IâÄôve been a member. What is troubling is that FacebookâÄôs terms of service were changed and enforced without user consent; users were not made aware these changes would be instigated until after they had been made, and no Facebook user was required to agree to or accept the new changes in service. It is not uncommon to agree to new terms of service when a company upgrades or changes its official jargon âÄîAppleâÄôs iTunes requires that customers accept new policies before allowing anyone to purchase music or movies online. It seems Facebook could easily have followed suit. Especially as now, users have no way out. Perhaps the idea was to protect photo comments, but it is difficult to trust a website that earned $280 million last year to keep my best interests in mind might I someday find myself in a career more public than an opinion columnist at a college newspaper. Sure, I can keep my privacy settings locked, and delete my profile, but the archives will always remain. Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]