Let me first say that I like Facebook. In fact, I like it a lot. You don't attain 150 million users unless you are doing something right. Mark Zuckerberg is to be commended for starting with an idea, transforming it into a great vision, taking the company successfuly through its birth pains, and finally achieving one of the most heralded applications in Internet history. There is a lot to like about the company and its founder, Zuckerberg. Bravo!
But now, Mr. Zuckerberg, please cut out the bull shittake. In his response to the Facebook Terms of Service brouhaha, Mr. Zuckerberg maintains that his intention all along has been for people to own and control their information: "Our philosophy that people own their information and control who they share it with has remained constant."
Let's digress for a moment and consider an observation made by the Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt in his monograph "On Bullshit":
“It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose."
In this case Mr. Zuckerberg's eye is not on the facts and he is describing some other version of reality. He assumes that the Internet culture is a dumb culture and that people don't know how to read. You don't have to be a lawyer to recognize that Facebook's Old and New Terms of Service over-reach. One part of the TOS, for example, gives Facebook the ability to "(b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising." This clause in particular doesn't seem to be restricted by anything one might do with one's privacy settings.
As Peter Smith in the TechnoFile points out: "To me, this is huge. Consider an aspiring model who has a few images of herself on her Facebook page. Her image is her currency, and Facebook is saying they can take one of her photos and use it, gratis, in an ad campaign." A variant of Peter Smith's scenario is equally disturbing. Suppose our aspiring model is not yet an aspiring model. She has been posting her high school pictures to Facebook thinking that they are available only to her friends for viewing. Under the new TOS even if she were to close her account before becoming famous, Facebook would retain an unrestricted and perpetual license to use her image or any derivative works for commercial purposes. How do you like them apples?
Zuckerberg's response (I am paraphrasing): "Trust Us. This is a complex issue. Everything will be just fine."
Do we all remember "credit default swaps"? Didn't the Financial Masters of the Universe also tell us: "Trust Us. This is a complex issue. Everything will be just fine."