Live blog: Facebook press conference on privacy

CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to talk about new steps the site is taking to improve terms of service and its overall policies. We'll have live coverage.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted a press conference that started at 11 a.m. PST Thursday to discuss "the new steps Facebook is taking to improve user understanding and ownership of the Facebook terms of service and, more generally, the policies of the Facebook service." The play-by-play is here. Facebook's full announcement is posted below as well.

Facebook privacy press conference live blog

10:49 Rafe: Good morning

10:58 [Comment From Gabriel:] For anyone interested, I just found this document (http://www.facebook.com/press/releases.php?p=85587) probably explaining what is happening exactly... basically, users will be able to review, vote and edit on any change proposed to their TOS

10:59 Gabriel, that's what this conference will be about. Intresting new way to get the community involved in writing its own laws. Surprised it took FB this long to figure this out.

11:02 [Comment From Alonis:] Hi all! So FB is proposing users will be able to review, vote and edit on any change proposed to their TOS ? Well, golly! That would be a great way to handle online community TOS agreements!

11:05 This new community-aware TOS plan is really interesting... can't wait to hear Zuck discuss it.

11:10 One of the 10 Principles of Facebook Service is "Ownership and Control of Information," which i assume means *user* ownership and control...

11:10 HERE WE GO.

11:11 On the call:

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO

Elliot Schrage, VP Privacy

Ted Eillot, General Counsel

11:11 Schrage: You (press) should all have copies of the release now. (I do, it's in the story)

11:13 Zuckerberg: Today we're talking about the new governing documents for Facebook from here on.

The purpose for FB is to make the world more open and transparent.

Openness and transparency isn't just an end state. It's a process to get get there.

The governing docs are the framework of how we think about that.

11:14 Zuckerberg:

Last week, we put up old terms after we put up new terms.

We took last week as a strong signal of how much people cared about FB and how much they want to govern it.

We're happy to roll out these policies today

11:15 Zuck:

We're talking today about policy, not product.

There will be hundreds and thousands of product changes going forward, and that's not what we're talking about. This is about the rules and framework.

What we're annoucning today is new forms of user contols.

There are new principles... these are the aspirational goals we have for FB and how we want to craft FB going forward and make FB more open.

11:16 Z:

The rights and responsibilties are the operating rules of the site, for us and for the users too.

The other thing that's important: The mechanisms we've rolled out for user involvement and empowerment.

11:17 Z: New changes to the doc will be through a process of notice and comment.

There will be periods of time for discourse.

If there's a large amount of discourse, then we'll put something up for a vote.

It's a big step, but we're trying to move the world towards openness.

11:17 Z:

We're also putting together a council.

The new docs do more than address the confusion over what happened over the past few weeks.

To be clear: We do not say we own user content and we're sorry for the confusion.

11:18 Z:

The silver lining of the last few weeks: People feel a visceral connection to the rights and responsilbites, and this gives us a good way to involve them

11:18 And now... Questions.

11:20 Kara Swisher: How did you change things without this plan in place. It seems like you just changed the TOS w/o thinking about it.

Z: Our new TOS was similar to other TOSes on the Web. It was more of a contract than a governing document.

Ironically, the change we made was to shorten the previous TOS from 15 pp to 5. But we made a few mistakes.

11:21 Z: It's really critical we bake this user feedback into governance

11:21 Z: If there's a change we put out that's noncontroversial, there won't be a vote. But if it looks controversial, we'll put it to vote.

11:23 Schrage: We underestimated the sense of ownership people feel over the site.

11:23 My question now:

Did you not learn from previous changes that caused an uproar, like beacon, that users were likely to rebel against changes in your terms of service? Why did it take this latest flap to implement these changes?

11:24 Z: 1. Beacon wasn't a change in terms, it was a feature.

2. This is more foundational. This is one of the only online services where people share so much information.

Soon, the vast amount of info on the Web will by like this, just shared by ordinary people. So terms of service need to become like this: governing documents.

11:26 Schrage: What was was proposed as the new TOS was consistent with other sites. The irony was that some of the most critical blogs had their own TOSes that were more broad than ours.

But Mark said the comparison was not appropriate. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Z: It doesn't matter what the industry standard is. This was an opportunity to have a dialog...

11:28 Question from a guy at Forbes (missed his name, sorry): As an increasingly international organization... are you considering international laws?

Ted Elliott: FB General Counsel: We comply with all laws (i think that's what he said)

Question: Do you comply with the laws of the most stringent country you operate in?

Elliott: We comply with appropriate laws (didn't answer as far as I could tell)

11:29 Brian Deacon, Investors Businss Daily: What are you doing to deter phishing and ID theft issues.

Answer: Not on topic.

11:31 Stacy Kramer, Paid Content:

What did you learn from News Feed experience that you could have taken into this. Why did it take so long? (sounds like my question?)

Zuckerberg: This announcment is about policy, not product.

Within the framework of our rules, we'll build the best product we can.

We should have been communicating about them (newsfeed, beacon) more broadly. Ultimately it was very good. We learned that being as transparent as possible was a good thing.

11:32 Kramer: How important is this financially?

Z: THis is all about trusting our users. And it will result in the best outcome: the best community.

11:35 Last question: Ray Valdez, Gartner: How do you fill the gap between plain english agreement and the legal governing doc on the site?

Elliott: Look at the statement of rights and responsiblities. We have terms for users, developers, advertisers. We've shrunk 44pp of materials to about 5, including all three of those terms.

11:35 And that's it!

11:36 I'm going to go write up a Webware post on the new terms/policies now.

11:36 Thanks all for your attention and comments.

11:36 [Comment From Sean:] Thanks Rafe. Appreciate this.

11:36 [Comment From Danny:] good luck!

11:37 Sorry i couldn't get to them all or forward them to the FB team. Will keep them all in mind as I work on my followup.

11:37 Over and out!

Facebook press release on new governance plan

Facebook Opens Governance of Service and Policy Process to Users

Releases draft principles and statement of rights and responsibilities for user review, comment, and vote

PALO ALTO, Calif. - February 26, 2009 - Facebook today announced a new approach to site governance that offers its users around the world an unprecedented role in determining the future policies governing the service. Facebook released the first proposals subject to these new procedures--The Facebook Principles, a set of values that will guide the development of the service, and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that make clear Facebook's and users' commitments related to the service.

Over the coming weeks, users will have the opportunity to review, comment, and vote on these documents. An update to the Privacy Policy is also planned, and this change will be subject to similar input.

"As people share more information on services like Facebook, a new relationship is created between Internet companies and the people they serve," said Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. "The past week reminded us that users feel a real sense of ownership over Facebook itself, not just the information they share."

"Companies like ours need to develop new models of governance," Zuckerberg added. "Rather than simply reissue a new Terms of Use, the changes we're announcing today are designed to open up Facebook so that users can participate meaningfully in our policies and our future."

"This is an unprecedented action. No other company has made such a bold move towards transparency and democratization," said Simon Davies, director, Privacy International. "The devil will be in the detail but, overall, we applaud these positive steps and think they foreshadow the future of Web 2.0. We hope Facebook will realize these extraordinary commitments through concrete action, and we challenge the rest of the industry to exceed them."

Facebook will continue to make independent decisions about the timing and rollout of products. While these must be consistent with the Principles and in compliance with the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, they will not be subject to the notice and comment or voting requirements.

Principles of the Facebook Service

The Facebook Principles are derived from the belief that certain values should guide the company's efforts to achieve its mission of making the world more open and connected. The 10 Principles include the "Freedom to Share and Connect," "Fundamental Equality" of people on Facebook, "Ownership and Control of Information," and other basic tenets of the Facebook service. Achieving these Principles should be constrained only by limitations of law, technology, and evolving social norms about sharing.

Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

The Statement of Rights and Responsibilities was drafted to address the common issues raised by users on the officially established Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities Group, jointly administered by the company and two concerned users, Julius Harper of Los Angeles and Anne Kathrine Yojana Petterøe of Oslo, Norway.

The document evolved from the Facebook Principles, and will govern Facebook's relationship with users and others who interact with it. Once finalized, the Statement will take the place of Facebook's existing Terms of Use, Developer Terms of Service, and the Facebook Advertising Terms and Conditions.

The document, which condensed almost 40 pages of legal jargon into fewer than six pages, emphasizes clarity and accessibility. It reaffirms that users, not Facebook, own the content they share through Facebook services and that Facebook's permission to use that content expires when users delete the content or terminate their accounts.

The document also codifies the specific requirements that users be given notice, an opportunity to comment, and, in certain cases, approval authority through a vote for policy changes.

More About the New User Participation Mechanisms

Transparency and User Input

Facebook committed to holding virtual Town Halls following the announcement of the new Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities for 30 days, with the comment period scheduled to close at 12:01 a.m. PDT on March 29. During this time, users have an opportunity to comment on the proposed policy.

This also addresses specific concerns raised by users on the Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities Group. Users are invited to comment on the Principles, and on the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, by joining the following new groups specifically created for such comments; Principles at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=54964476066; and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities should join the group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=67758697570.

After the comment period ends, Facebook will review and consider submissions. Facebook will then republish the Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, incorporating any changes it has made. The company will also provide users a summary of the most common and significant comments received, including its response to those comments, where appropriate.

If these documents are approved, then all future policy changes would be subject to notice and comment periods of varying lengths, depending upon the nature of the change. Following the comment period, Facebook would publish a final policy proposal that reflects the comments received.

Direct Voting

Following the first Town Halls, The Facebook Principles and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities will be the first set of policies subject to a vote, which may include other alternatives. The vote will be open to all Facebook users active as of February 25, 2009. The results of the vote will be made public and will be binding, if more than 30 percent of all active registered users vote.

If users approve the draft Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, then all future policy changes would be eligible for a vote by users, provided the level of intensity of user interest would justify it. User interest would be determined by the number of users who comment on any proposed change during the comment period.

User Council

Facebook also announced its intention to establish a user council to participate more closely in the development and discussion of policies and practices. As a start, the company indicated that it would invite the authors of the most insightful and constructive comments on the draft documents to serve as founding members of the group.

Other Third-party Reaction

Facebook shared today's news with industry experts and concerned users who offered the following comments in response:

"This truly breaks new ground by sending a message to the Facebook community that their expectations about how information is used really do matter," said Jules Polonetsky, co-chair and director of the Future of Privacy Forum. "A company formally handing over a business decision to a user vote is a dramatic step forward for transparency and user control."

"Facebook's decision to adopt a notice and comment model of rule making demonstrates a truly unique commitment to transparency," said Aron Cramer, president and CEO of Business for Social Responsibility. "This step sets a new standard for corporate transparency and stakeholder engagement by applying the principles of social networking in fundamentally new and important ways."

"The idea that a major company like Facebook would give its users a vote in how the service is governed is remarkable," said Julius Harper, a Facebook user and a co-founding administrator of the People Against the New Terms of Service group on Facebook. "This decision should go far in restoring people's trust, and I hope it sets a precedent for other online services to follow."

About Facebook

Founded in February 2004, Facebook's mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and interact with the people they know in a trusted environment. Facebook is a privately held company and is headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif.


Previously:
EPIC readying federal complaint over Facebook privacy policy.
Facebook: Relax, we won't sell your photos.
Facebook backs down on privacy terms.
 

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