I have a confession. I realize what I am about to admit will make me a curmudgeon to some, but so be it.
I dislike Facebook.
Hate is too strong a word because Facebook is good for finding people I have lost track of, but that is about the only thing for which I'm willing to give it credit. I would rather everything else that Facebook does elsewhere. My reasons for this dislike boil down to a mix of a dislike of user agreements as well as the lack of intellectual property rights, lack of privacy, and my general annoyance that very few people know or care about these issues with Facebook.
I have been thinking about this for quite awhile but this post by Alycia at BrokenJaws moved me to my keyboard to put my thoughts into writing. Alycia’s post included a request to ALA President Roberta Stevens to keep our professional conversations out of “walled gardens” like Facebook. To me, this is a reasonable request on many levels and one that I applaud.
Before I go into more detail about the why I feel this way, I'll acknowledge that there is a compelling reason to use Facebook for discussions of any kind. People are there. A lot of people are there and many of those people adore Facebook. Unfortunately, for dislikers like me, Facebook is still the best way to spread the news to some and get in touch with others. In fact, the presence of all of those people is really the only reason I have a Facebook account.
The issue of intellectual property is at the core of my disliking Facebook...namely the fact that on Facebook, there is none. When it comes to intellectual property, Facebook owns it all and everything is free to whomever you have given access to to use your words, creations, and pictures for whatever they would like.
Here is the relevant section of the user agreement (original link here):
“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through yourprivacy and application settings. In addition:
- For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos ("IP content"), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook ("IP License"). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
- When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).
- When you publish content or information using the "everyone" setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).
- We always appreciate your feedback or other suggestions about Facebook, but you understand that we may use them without any obligation to compensate you for them (just as you have no obligation to offer them).”
Although Facebook says that you “own” your content, they go on to say that anyone you allow to see your stuff, including them, has access to your stuff. Access, in Facebook, means that your stuff can be downloaded, remixed, reused, or copied without attribution for any purpose. In my mind, that is not “ownership;” that is plain old sharing without limits. If there was a way to apply a Creative Commons license to content in Facebook, this would be a moot point, but even if you wanted to try to apply a CC license to stuff on Facebook, I think the user rights you agree to would supercede that, since you basically give permission away by agreeing to them.
I noticed an example of this playing out recently on a local news channel here in Houston. When Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot it was big news everywhere, but since her husband is Astronaut Mark Kelly it very close to home for Houstonians. When one of the local news stations ran the story in the next few days, the photo they showed of Congresswoman Giffords and Astronaut Kelly was not from the campaign trail or official photos from their jobs, (and given that they are an astronaut and congresswoman, you'd think there would be plenty), but rather the picture the local news kept showing was a wedding photo of the couple attributed to “Facebook.”
I am not saying there is anything terribly wrong with this example. Given the public nature of their jobs, it is likely that the privacy settings on Giffords’ and Kelly’s accounts were set very open and allowed for the viewing of all their content. Still, when a tv station is able to post someone's wedding picture without having to seek any permission whatsoever, it's a great example of how anyone with access to your content can do whatever they wish with it. This is why I post very few photos on Facebook and use flickr for the bulk of my online display and storage of photos.
Most of the librarians I know are aware if this issue with Facebook, but most of the general public I talk to is not and, frankly, a lot of them do not care. To me, that's alarming, and an education issue that might be good topic for another post.
Privacy issues with facebook have been well documented as has Facebook's penchant for changing those policies often, without notice. I will not rehash this argument, but I will say though that I disagree with founder Mark Zuckerbuerg's assertion that people want less privacy. I think that Facebook forces people into less privacy and in order to stay connected, we feel forced to comply with his vision.
The original question posed by Alycia was: Should we have professional discussions in walled gardens especially when the conversation, once there, no longer belongs to us but to Facebook?
I think those discussions will continue to happen there, for better or worse, because, as I stated at the beginning, people are on Facebook and that is where they are living their online lives. Regardless of the issues with Facebook, personal and processional conversations of great and little import will continue to happen in the walled garden of Facebook.
As librarians, finders of information and educators of the masses, we have to consider that our professional conversations should not only happen in Facebook. They should happen in many different places at once. The problem then becomes duplication and distribution. When starting conversations, we would do well to start them in multiple places, across multiple platforms, to be as inclusive as possible.
As for me personally, I will continue to be on Facebook, but only marginally.