Protest by Facebook users alters use policy

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A slight change made earlier this month in Facebook's terms of service contract ignited a firestorm from users as the implications were digested.

First reported Sunday in a blog post on the Consumerist website, the alteration replaced language that states users could delete their content at any time with new guidance declaring that Facebook would now retain users' content and licenses after an account was terminated.

The online uproar caused the popular social networking site on Tuesday to restore the previous policy. Much of the protest centered on users concerned that personal content posted on the site – including artworks and intellectual content – would become the property of the site, which has an estimated 175 million active members.

"The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work," Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, wrote on the company's official blog.

The debate brings attention to the intersection of the free use of websites and the needs of commerce, according to observers. There are both philosophical and copyright issues involved, said Earl Porter, managing consultant at Trustwave, which provides on-demand and subscription-based information security and payment card industry compliance management solutions.

“Any user that posts, they have to be aware they're posting on a public site,” he told on Wednesday. “The end-users seem to want it both ways: to share with the public, yet retain control.”

This is too hard to achieve in this new age of technological advances, he said. But, it shows the power of the user community.

“Loyal Facebook users were able to get Facebook to back away from the policy change in a day," Porter said. "In the past, this would have involved a long, drawn-out letter-writing campaign.”

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