Facebook backs down on privacy terms

The CEO of the social-networking service says in a blog post that the company would return for now to its previous privacy policy.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
2 min read

Facing a federal complaint from a leading privacy advocacy organization and a revolt of tens of thousands of its users, Facebook on Tuesday night backed down from what many have seen as an onerous privacy policy.

Facebook informed all its users that it has, temporarily at least, reverted its terms of service to the previous version. Screenshot by CNET Networks

The policy had seemed to grant Facebook perpetual rights to users' uploaded content, and the threatened complaint from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) had demanded, essentially, that the social-networking service return to its previous terms.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post late Tuesday that the company had decided to do just that:

Many of us at Facebook spent most of today discussing how best to move forward. One approach would have been to quickly amend the new terms with new language to clarify our positions further. Another approach was simply to revert to our old terms while we begin working on our next version. As we thought through this, we reached out to respected organizations to get their input.

Going forward, we've decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms. We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now. As I said yesterday, we think that a lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective so we don't plan to leave it there for long.

Zuckerberg also said that the company would be adopting a new set of terms that would more carefully take users' rights into consideration:

More than 175 million people use Facebook. If it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world. Our terms aren't just a document that protect our rights; it's the governing document for how the service is used by everyone across the world. Given its importance, we need to make sure the terms reflect the principles and values of the people using the service.

Our next version will be a substantial revision from where we are now. It will reflect the principles I described yesterday around how people share and control their information, and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand. Since this will be the governing document that we'll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms.

The move came after Facebook had, earlier in the day, polled its users as to whether it should revert to its previous terms. And in his blog, Zuckerberg said that the company would be asking users to get involved in crafting the next set of terms.

"If you'd like to get involved in crafting our new terms," Zuckerberg wrote, "you can start posting your questions, comments and requests in the group we've created--Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. I'm looking forward to reading your input."

Certainly, we'll have more on this as it develops.

But in the meantime, as blogger Leo Laporte put it on Twitter this evening, "Put down the pitchforks and call off the rabble."