The Social Web: Who owns your data?

Moderated by Lawrence Dignan | April 9, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: It's your life and your data - until you give it to Facebook. Then whose data is it?

Emil Protalinski

Emil Protalinski

Not Just You


You and You Alone

Violet Blue

Violet Blue

Best Argument: You and You Alone

Closing Statements

You are Facebook's product

Emil Protalinski

The privacy apocalypse is a serious problem that Facebook does not take seriously. That being said, the social networking giant is steadily, but very slowly, improving its stance and offering users a better and better solution.

Select users are fighting the company to improve faster and more dramatically, but most simply don't care about privacy; they just want to communicate with their friends. Don't expect Facebook to ever completely protect your privacy because the social networking giant is in the business of selling your data.

Remember that you are Facebook's product. Until Facebook gets a serious competitor, the social networking giant isn't going anywhere. It also won't be significantly changing its user agreement, which clearly states that it owns any IP you give it.


Price is eternal vigilance

Violet Blue

Before big social web sites started selling user data to the highest bidder and privacy violations with apps (as with Path), it seemed fine to think that once you signed up for a website they owned your data and content as part of a contract for free use of the site.

It has become clear that "free" use of these sites has a very real cost to users who want privacy and control over their data -- and their personal information. And that this "free" use of user data is making these sites an unbelievable amount of money -- while users have nothing to show for the value of their data except for dozens of nameless social web business partners knowing details about their lives.

The price of sites like Facebook is eternal vigilance - at the very least. It isn't free. People just don't realize what they're paying for it -- yet.



Close call

Lawrence Dignan

This debate was much closer than I expected it to be. Emil made some solid points and ultimately consumers may get used to the idea that they are the product and only have a share of their own information. However, Violet had well-thought out points, drove home the argument -- and ultimately won. One thing is certain: The issue of who owns your social data and what happens to it isn't going away.



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  • Hard to say, lots of nuance . . .

    Hard to say . . .

    Legally, you "own" anything you write, until you say otherwise. Well, not really "own" so much as "hold the legal copyright, which gives you certain rights."

    Of course, the agreements you have with Facebook when you sign up to use it may alter things somewhat. And of course, you'd have to dig through court rulings to figure out if the agreements hold any real legal value.

    Physically, the data is stored on Facebook's servers. Which means control over the content is very much in their ballpark. If they shut down today, it's all gone.

    Morally/ethically, I personally would rather the ownership of the data be considered to be "owned" by the author of the content, not the service that hosts it.

    Promises to be an interesting debate. I'm pretty much undecided until they define the term "ownership" a bit better.
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • If the terms of service give them a helping hand to anything you input,

      the number of nuances goes down to 0.00.

      And their royalty-free copy will get them more profit long before the user ever gets to make use of it for themselves.

      This stuff ain't free... people just don't realize what they are giving up or letting devalue...
      Reply Vote I'm for You and You Alone
      • Confusion and the Unknown

        People don't realize. Even when they do they still have serious issues trying to understand what these rights are as defined by the social site. I have tried reading all the Facebook and Google docs and feel I absolutely have no realistic idea what exactly they can / cannot do with the data. Google has made the best current steps to try to simplify this.
        Until then, wherever possible I use an alias and really watch what I upload.

        btw: I think LinkedIn falls into the same general group as Facebook and Google+.....
        Reply Vote I'm for You and You Alone
    • With a FB account - you Assign rights to all your Public IP to FB

      Per their own agreement "For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). " Once after it is deleted EVERYWHERE do you again own exclusive rights.
      So if you take a great photo, post it in the public view, now FB can take it and sell it, license it, sub-license it, and earn all the money it wants from it - since by just posting it you gave them the rights to it - just like any writing you may do.
      It means you should ensure that any photo is smothered with copyright watermarks to keep them from using it - or you will have to accept that if something you post becomes a phenom you will never earn any income if you post onto FB in the public view.
      Reply Vote I'm for Not Just You
  • Privacy

    I agree that privacy is a precious thing but with the structure of the internet, the only way to maintain privacy is to not to get on the internet. Unfortunately, there are a lot of businesses that make their money by analysing how you use the internet and divise ways to send advertisements to you based on what they know about you and patterns in your online behavior.

    Personal data should be kept as close as possible and as private as possible. The laws are way behind the curve when it comes to protection and privacy. I find this annoying because there are laws that were written with privacy and protection in mind, although for mail or telephone use, but can be applied to online sessions.
    Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • Misconception

      Privacy rules as defined in the days of mail and telephone seldom can be applied in the same "sense" to the internet. It creates even bigger problems when they are leveraged as such. The internet and now social is a whole new ball game and needs clearly defined and agreed upon rights that place the user first and all else second. Then work from that point.
      I feel we are starting to see this realization coming into the light of day.
      This is going to be interesting.....
      Reply Vote I'm for You and You Alone
  • More risk than reward

    Maybe I'm just getting paranoid in my old age, but I give out as little information as possible. Many sites ask for things like birthdate, which I refuse give out, and even go so far as to require it if you want to "join". I just use 01/01/01 (or 01/01/1901 if site requires you to be over a certain age, as Subway did when I went to activate by rewards card).

    Granting rights to Facebook (or any other entity) to use my information just seems foolish, and requiring it is wrong. I won't use Facebook; I think the risk is just not worth the benefits.
    Reply Vote I'm for You and You Alone
  • Read the Terms of Service as to who owns what

    All the nuances you ever want are in there, because it's the provider providing the "service" and that is what you agree to and that is what you give up.

    Try to get them to rewrite their Terms of Service agreement, too... ;)
    Reply Vote I'm for You and You Alone
    • I've tried

      As an engineer I include myself in a fairly knowledgeable group of users.
      I have tried reading EULA / OTS / TOS / EUR / .... and in most cases walk away with a "say what?" conclusion.
      Reply Vote I'm for You and You Alone
  • Social Media Sites Unlock the Front Door

    Using most social media sites today is the data equivalent of sleeping with your doors unlocked, which is why I chose to un-participate myself from all such sites. It's clear that there are too many folks in this industry that think they can get away with something, so they're giving it a try to see if there are enough people out there willing to hand over their data for no good reason. I suspect it will take a few news-worthy disasters before people begin demanding full ownership (as in 'I don't join if I don't get total control over and ownership of my data'). I have nothing against people joining sites that don't respect their data rights, so long as those folks are given clear and obvious opportunity to sign away their rights with the full knowledge of what they're doing. Personally, I think it's nuts, but if someone wants to knowingly hand over their rights, in full or in part, so be it. But for me, when it comes to information I care about (and not all data falls into that category), I'll stick to sites where my data is my data.
    Reply Vote I'm for You and You Alone