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Facebook downplays eternal user data grab

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Responding to a torrent of outrage and suspicion over changes to Facebook's terms of service, the site's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is asking users to trust the social networking company with eternal permission to use and license all content and information ever posted there - even after an account is deleted.

Zuckerberg jumped into PR damage control mode Monday afternoon with a blog post attempting to sooth Facebook users angered by the recent service policy changes regarding who ultimately has control of the web site's content.

"Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with," wrote Zuckerburg in the post. "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 they've asked us to share it with. Without this license, we couldn't help people share that information."

The controversy over Facebook's new terms of service (TOS) was sparked by consumer advocacy site The Consumerist's take on the change titled, "Facebook's New Terms of Service: 'We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.'" Indignation spread quickly amongst bloggers and tech writers, with condemnation and claims of giving up Facebook forever laid thick.

At issue is Facebook's removal of a provision that said the company's license to users' content automatically expires after accounts are deleted. That clause was swapped for language saying Facebook will now keep content and licenses even after the account is removed.

Apparently, those who've trudged through Facebook's TOS before the controversy weren't overly-concerned with signing over "irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense)" all uploaded content in the first place.

Zuckerberg claims Facebook wants permission to hold onto content from deleted accounts only for things like keeping a message a user had sent in the recipients inbox. He wrote that the policy is consistent with how other services like email work and therefore fair game for Facebook.

As for the company owning licenses to all its users' uploaded content, Zuckerberg says just to trust them not to abuse the power.

"In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want," he wrote. "The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work."

No word yet on how Facebook knows how each of its 175 million active users want their information shared. ®

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