Nearly two years ago I wrote about the three big trends in social infrastructure:
Three big trends define how social infrastructure will evolve in the next few years: the opening up of communities, the battle for ownership of user data and the introduction of social economics.
The short summary is that if you close your account, Facebook owns your data and can do anything it wants with it, including sub-licensing it. Imagine you are a professional photographer who uploads lots of pictures on Facebook. Oops, you just lots ownership of those pics.
There are some arguments as to why Facebook updated the ToS having to do with their ability to control how user data is shared and used across various services using Facebook Connect and other mechanisms. While this may be true, I don’t buy the blanket change to ToS as proportional. Lawyers need to go back to work and find a more precise way to eliminate reasonable risk to Facebook without essentially forcing Facebook users to lose control of their data.
What I find particularly offensive is that, from what I understand, users have no choice over the matter. Under the current terms of service, if I were to protest and close my account then they’ll own my archived data. But if I stay and close my account some years from now, well, they might own my data. Hmm……
This is an important step in the global battle for data ownership. If Facebook gets away with this, I expect to see these types of policies quickly spread through other services. I don’t expect this to happen, however. My prediction is that this will be another Facebook Beacon-type experience and another lesson to the company about the level of sensitivity and care with which a large online player must behave.