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After complaints, Facebook backtracks on terms of use

The company is now devising new terms of service

By Jeremy Kirk
February 18, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Facebook has removed language from its terms of use that appeared to give the company vast, perpetual control over any data posted to the social networking site.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg blogged that the company felt it was best to return to the old terms of service while the company works on a new user agreement. "Based on this feedback, we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised," Zuckerberg wrote late Tuesday.

The ruckus started after a blog post last Sunday on The Consumerist Web site highlighted a change on Feb. 4 that allowed Facebook to maintain broad control and archive data that users had deleted. Under the previous terms of use, Facebook was not granted any rights to deleted material.

Facebook maintains that users must agree to a license in order for the site to share their data with other people. The user agreement grants Facebook the right to use their content in a wide variety of ways.

But the changes removed two sentences that read: "You 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."

It prompted concerns that Facebook could, for example, harvest a deleted photo and use it in promotional material, among other scenarios.

Facebook users immediately revolted, prompting the formation of several new groups on the site dedicated to fighting the changes. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy watchdog, said on Tuesday that it was preparing to file a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over the social network's updated licenses.

Zuckerberg wrote that it will take the company a few weeks to revise the service terms, saying the new agreement will be clearly written and incorporate suggestions from Facebook users. Users can contribute their ideas via a new group, Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

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