On February 4, (the day after its 5th birthday) Facebook stirred up a hornet's nest of opposition with a new policy that members interpreted as “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine.” The controversy even made the local TV Monday night.
Much of the controversy was over what happened to your content if you decided to delete your account (e.g. if you realize you’ve shared too much information and you want to disappear from the scene). An oft-linked summary of the issues is found on the Consumerist.
On Monday, founder Mark Zuckerberg tried to calm the waters with a posting to his blog claiming the change was no big deal. Apparently that didn’t work.
However, Facebook users who logged in last night saw this announcement:
This morning, the website says
If you want to share your thoughts on what should be in the new terms, check out our group Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.
Customer relations for any company with 175 million customers is going to be tricky. However, it appears that Facebook has less ability (or willingness) to impose unilateral privacy changes than (say) eBay has to impose unilateral price increases.
I’m not exactly sure why. Is it because it has competitors? Is it because the site has no purpose other than to engender a sense of belonging (which requires trust)? Is it because it provides the tools for its members to organize opposition?
It could also be that the young, hip Facebooksters listen better than do the eBay types, or that in this case, they care less about having their way than eBay does about increasing income.