Don’t be distracted by the Facebook climbdown “victory” – big issues remain

I wrote yesterday on the iCrossing UK blog some thoughts about the Facebook decision to revert to its old Terms of Sevice (TOS) in the face of a user revolt.

M’learned iCrossing NYC colleague Alisa is on the warpath over the Facebook Terms of Sevice (TOS) debacle. Seems she’s on to something, and I’m listening closely:

Some people have claimed that user data on Facebook is worthless (silly people). I recently wrote a post for Mashable on how Facebook could build a revenue model by essentially selling even anonymized user data. Silicon Alley Insider then posted about this same idea. Commenters to the SA post clearly didn’t get that what they view as “useless” or frivolous Facebook data is in fact extremely rich and valuable trend data– worth a lot of money to marketers, government entities, and private enterprises.

Its the value of our data that incenses me so much over the current Facebook TOS hub-bub. Its not enough to say “Facebook doesn’t own your data” when the license we grant them is so wholly encompassing so as to allow full usage of user data as if they did own it.

The FB-TOS debacle dominated the top of the Techmeme news/blog aggregator yesterday, showing that this was issue number one for the digerati. From Perez Hilton to Pete Cashmore, everyone had a view.

Now it’s tucked down at the bottom of the page, with a couple of posts which have a users-force-Facebook-volte-face sort of flavour.

Was reverting to the old TOS is just legerdemain, misdirection on a grand scale? If so it hasn’t worked. This is an issue which has hit the mainstream, much more so than the Beacon advertising issue of a year ago, and many people have a niggling doubt in their minds about Facebook and their data.

It’s good to see the BBC continuing to look closely at the issue in its coverage. According to its man in Silicon Valley law suits were being prepared by privacy activists against Facebook at the moment that it decided to revert it its old TOS.

It’s made me think more about the concerns Tom Hodgkinson voiced in his article for the Guardian – one of its most popular articles ever, I believe – about Facebook’s suitability as the keeper of so much of our most private data.

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