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2/17/2009
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Facebook's Terms Of Use Draw Protest

Mark Zuckerberg clarifies for users that once they delete their accounts, friends will still retain their posts.

Facebook members own the information on the site and control who sees it, but when they terminate their accounts Facebook claims it retains the right to use the information.

That stipulation, contained in Facebook's updated user terms, has created confusion and drawn protest from users who believe that the social networking site could use information that they deem personal indefinitely and for any purposes it chooses.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg sought to allay those fears in a blog post Monday. He explained that the clarification served to notify users that once they delete their accounts, friends will still retain their posts.

"In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want," Zuckerberg said. "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."

Zuckerberg said that Facebook must obtain user permission before it can share a member's information with others as they request. That is done through the site's terms of use, which grant Facebook rights to use and share the information internally.

"One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever," he said. "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."

Zuckerberg said Facebook updated its terms to make that more clear and because the company is working to protect users while making its terms and conditions more clear. He said that people's concern over the change highlights the complexity of users' privacy rights and the use of personal information.

For example, people want full ownership of their information and they want to be able to block access to it whenever they choose. People also want to be able to import contact information and photographs to other services.

"These two positions are at odds with each other," he explained. "There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with."

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