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EPIC readying federal complaint over Facebook privacy policy

Privacy advocacy organization claims that the social networking service's new policy should be returned to its previous language.

A leading privacy advocacy group is preparing to file a federal complaint against Facebook's new privacy policies, a published report said Tuesday.

According to PC World, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is getting ready to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, demanding that the massively popular social networking service return to its previous policies.

It appears that the major thrust of EPIC's--and many others' anger--at Facebook stems from new language in the privacy policy that grants the company seemingly perpetual control over content users post there:

"You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings....

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

There are currently more than 46,000 members of a Facebook group set up to protest the new policies.

In a blog post defending the new language, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued that it wasn't as onerous as people were claiming, and that:

Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with. 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.

One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever. When a person shares something like a message with a friend, two copies of that information are created--one in the person's sent messages box and the other in their friend's inbox. Even if the person deactivates their account, their friend still has a copy of that message. We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like email work. One of the reasons we updated our terms was to make this more clear.

In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work. Our goal is to build great products and to communicate clearly to help people share more information in this trusted environment.

But, wrote PC World, other online services, like MySpace, Twitter and YouTube, all have less strict controls over users' content.