Does Facebook ‘own’ your data?

Facebook quietly updated its terms of service last week, sparking outcry among consumer advocates who interpreted the changes as meaning that Facebook can do what it wants with your data at any time. Forever. Even when you leave the service.

The Consumerist weblog (it’s part of the non-profit conusmer rights publication Consumer Reports) cited some pretty scary changes that Facebook made to its terms, which are the conditions you agree to when you use it. The Consumerist wrote:

‘Facebook’s terms of service used to say that when you closed an account on their network, any rights they claimed to the original content you uploaded would expire. Not anymore.

‘Now, anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later. Want to close your account? Good for you, but Facebook still has the right to do whatever it wants with your old content. They can even sublicense it if they want.’

Facebook has since responded and defended itself, saying that the changes don’t, apparently, give it carte blanche to do what it likes with your content, and if you deactivate your account, it will respect the privacy settings you had put in place prior.

What it does mean though is that your content won’t be deleted from, say, a friend’s Wall when you delete your Facebook account, in the same way that an email you send a friend won’t be deleted when you delete your email account. A representative from Facebook told The Industry Standard:

‘We are not claiming and have never claimed ownership of material that users upload. The new Terms were clarified to be more consistent with the behavior of the site. That is, if you send a message to another user (or post to their wall, etc…), that content might not be removed by Facebook if you delete your account (but can be deleted by your friend). Furthermore, it is important to note that this license is made subject to the user’s privacy settings. So any limitations that a user puts on display of the relevant content (e.g. To specific friends) are respected by Facebook. Also, the license only allows us to use the info “in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.” Users generally expect and understand this behavior as it has been a common practice for web services since the advent of webmail. For example, if you send a message to a friend on a webmail service, that service will not delete that message from your friend’s inbox if you delete your account.’

After the outcry from Facebook users, who set up protest groups such as ‘FACEBOOK OWNS YOU: Protest the new changes to the TOS!‘, founder Mark Zuckenberg responded on the official company blog, clarifying that the terms were changed to make it clearer that information may appear in two places, such as when a person sends a message to a friend.

‘We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like email work,’ he wrote, adding that ‘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.’

What Zuckenberg acknowledged was that, ‘We’re at an interesting point in the development of the open online world where these issues are being worked out. It’s difficult terrain to navigate and we’re going to make some missteps, but as the leading service for sharing information we take these issues and our responsibility to help resolve them very seriously.’

The interesting thing about all this is that Facebook hasn’t amended the terms of service to make it clearer to users. Why doesn’t it just give an example like the one they mentioned about about how your content might still stay on their system? Why does the fine print have to include so much legalese? Google has a privacy page that gives examples in plain English about how your data is used, and why.

Also, the way Facebook works isn’t just like someone’s inbox – it has public parts, semi-public parts, photos and applications. It’s a completely different dynamic. All very interesting stuff!

Facebook Privacy Watch

Something new between us and our Calvins

In a move to monitor inventory in its stores, Wal-Mart will launch an item-level Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) inventory tracking program starting August 1st, 2010.  In its first phase, the system will track individual pairs of jeans, socks and underwear.  The items will be tagged with removable RFID tags that can be read from a distance using hand-held scanners so employees will know what sizes are missing from shelves and what is in the stock room, all in a matter of seconds.  If the program is successful, it will be rolled out at Wal-Mart’s more than 3750 U.S. stores with more products.

The upside of RFID systems have been well-documented –they help retailers better control their inventory and cut costs for consumers,  create efficiencies in our health care system, increase customer convenience (enter the smart coffee mug), and save valuable time for consumers (let’s face it, the ability to push a shopping cart through an RFID reader that instantly calculates your grocery bill without removing a single item from the cart sounds down-right heavenly!).

RFID systems also continue to be rolled out new contexts: we have written about privacy issues surrounding the use of RFID in the workplace, Northern Arizona University is using their RFID enabled student cards to track student lecture attendance,  transportation systems use RFID to monitor traffic flow, our passports are being equipped with RFID chips and our pets are tracked and monitored via RFID implants.

While these systems can be really useful and save us time and money, they also raise some serious privacy concerns.  While the RFID tags in the Wal-Mart example are removable, not all RFID tags are (some are as small as a speck of dust and are virtually invisible).  RFID tags can be tracked and hacked, may not be easy to turn off and can be read at a distance, potentially allowing tags to be read outside the original system for purposes limited only by human ingenuity.

As the tags get cheaper and the size of the tags gets smaller, extending the reach and uses for such systems will likely evolve too. Perhaps most concerning is that RFID systems have the potential to track individuals and could do so without their knowledge or consent.  As a recent article notes:

“Location-aware apps are scary enough, based on GPS with the broad range they offer. But for the most part you still have to sign up for those. RFID is being implemented all around you…it can track infants to senior citizens with Alzheimer’s. In between it can track your clothes, your purchases, your car – even you. RFID is on the verge of tracking us all, cradle to the grave.”

As we and others in a number of jurisdictions continue to wrestle with questions about RFID and privacy, the evolving application of RFID systems serve to highlight the fascinating convergence of emerging technologies and human creativity.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner

British ISP Sky Broadband Cuts Off ACS:Law

British ISP Sky Broadband Cuts Off ACS:Law: Via Slashdot: Your Rights Online.

An anonymous reader writes “British ISP Sky Broadband cuts off ACS:Law and refuse to cooperate after at least 4,000 of their customers’ information was carelessly leaked. According to Sky Broadband, ‘We have suspended all co-operation with ACS:Law with immediate effect. This suspension will remain in place until ACS:Law demonstrates adequate measures to protect the security of personal information.’ Sky Broadband had been providing customer information to ACS:Law as part of their anti-piracy operation.”

Read Original Article (Via Slashdot: Your Rights Online.)

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Privacy Digest

Facebook to introduce “simplistic” privacy bands

After the huge backlash regarding Facebook’s confusing privacy settings, Facebook is poised to introduce “simplistic” settings that show privacy bands. But will it work? And would they have done this if there wasn’t a huge fuss?

In a radio interview, head of public policy Tim Sparapani said that: “Now we’ve heard from our users that we have gotten a little bit complex. I think we are going to work on that. We are going to be providing options for users who want simplistic bands of privacy that they can choose from and I think we will see that in the next couple of weeks.”

During the interview Sparapani defended Facebook’s privacy settings and said that it was better than having none at all, and the reason why there were so many settings was because every element of information could be adjusted to a certain level of privacy.

Facebook Privacy Watch


(1) “Beyond that, it may surprise you to know that property taxes in New Albany used to be calculated at a much higher rate than they are now. Even with trending, we pay less per assessed value than the locals did even during the Depression.”

“Property tax rates have not dramatically increased over the past few decades. They’re actually decreased over that stretch and Indiana ranks low nationally in terms of the average tax burden on citizens.”

Freedom Of Speech would like to know what city you live in, surely not New Albany?

(2) “Given the fact that the board could now see the end of rigid EPA monitoring and the end of the environmental consent decree.”

Freedom Of Speech would like to say we heard from (promoted) EPA Supervisor of District Five, Mrs. Barbara Vantil that New Albany will not see the end of their rigid EPA monitoring for a long, long time!

(3) “But voting no without a legitimate plan to cut future expenses while protecting the city would be a foolish move.”

(4) “The administration believes annexing the Charlestown Road commercial corridor effective in 2012 will boost the general fund in 2013″

(5) “England added that he doesn’t support closing a fire house or firing employees due to safety concerns.”

(6) “He said the city has no intentions at this point of paying the township.”

(7) “One Southern Indiana’s involvement has aided in the creation of 1,600 jobs, million in payroll .5 million in new, taxable capital in New Albany.”

(8) “Haub said the police union didn’t ask for raises this year because it knew the condition of the city’s general fund.”

(9) “England defended his police and fire chiefs, as he said they are managing their budgets as tight as they can.”

Best comments so far:

(1) “If we don’t get a mayor willing to deal with the contracts, I don’t know how we can.”

(2) “There were accusations made by Councilman Jack Messer that police mismanagement of staff has increased overtime pay unnecessarily.”

Freedom Of Speech would like to say:

One, this is the most narcissistic Mayor and dysfunctional council we’ve ever seen.

It’s time to take politics out of the decision making. Stop the personal agendas, cutting of deals, and political paybacks and favors. It’s time for the Mayor and Council members to make the hard decisions.

It is our opinion that the local newspaper (Tribune) needs to stick to reporting the news, instead of playing politics!

We’ve read enough lies in our local newspaper over the last two years to last us all a life time.

When is enough a enough?



Join us in the local fight against HIV/AIDS!

The 18th Anniversary Louisville AIDS Walk provides funding for multiple, local, non-profit organizations that deliver a myriad of support services for our neighbors who are living with HIV/AIDS.

Sunday, September 26, 2010 Louisville AIDS Walk 5K Run and Pet Walk.
Freedom Of Speech will have 6 staff members running the 5K in Joshua’s Memory.

Joshua contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion when he was only 3 months old. Our special little friend died at the age of 9.

Freedom Of Speech will match dollar for dollar that is raised in Memory of Joshua.

To donate text commit to 20222 standard messaging rates may apply.
We miss and love you Joshua!
Freedom Of Speech Staff


When To Remodel Your Bathroom

If you are the type of homeowner who wishes that her home was a little bit different, more exciting and attractive, it is time to make your wish come true. This is the time to change despite what you may believe.

Change doesn’t have to involve buying a new home but a simple remodeling project like a bathroom remodeling project. If you are wondering if bathroom remodeling is a good idea or not, you are advised to take the time to familiarize yourself with some common signs that your bathroom should be remodeled.

  • Unhappiness: Whether you are unhappy with your home’s overall appearance or just the bathroom, remodeling your bathroom may be able to offer you assistance. There are lots of different options when it comes to bathroom remodeling. You can remodel a small portion of your bathroom such as bathroom toilet or sink or you can change everything around. You are free to do whatever you want.
  • Poor Condition: Aside from not liking the looks of your bathroom, another reason could be that it may be unsafe to use. You may need to remodel your bathroom if it have developed a mold problem or it is falling apart. This is not impossible because your bathroom is the most used rooms in a home. Bathroom problems such as loose bathroom floor tiles and mold are not only unattractive but also dangerous.
  • Selling Your Home: You are not required to remodel your bathroom before selling it but bathroom remodeling projects may help to increase the overall value of your home, especially if the bathroom is in a very poor condition. It is also advisable to speak to a real estate agent whether or not a bathroom remodeling project can increase the profits when selling your home. Sometimes you will find it worth it but others times it isn’t.

Those are just a few of the many bathroom remodeling signs. It is really up to you if you want to remodel your bathroom or not.

One Minute Blog

What’s Myth And What’s Fact About Vegetables

Some people say that it is healthier to eat raw veggies while others say the opposite. You may be surprised by the actual facts about these vegetables because there are several misconceptions when it comes to vegetables.

Here are some guides to what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to eating your veggies:

Myth #1: Fresh ones are more nutritious than frozen

Fact: Studies show that sometimes you can get more nutrients from frozen veggies but it depends on variety and how old the vegetables at your supermarket are. Produce starts losing nutrient quality as soon as it’s picked. Frozen veggies are preserved at their peak of freshness when they are most nutritious.

Myth #2: Cooked ones are less nutritious than raw

Fact: It depends on the vegetables. According to Marion Nestle, author of “What To Eat”, “Cooking destroys some nutrients, but it releases others. It destroys vitamin C and folic acid.” That is why it is not a great idea to cook oranges. However, cooking releases vitamin A and the nutrients in fiber and makes them easier to digest. Also, lycopene is easier to absorb by your body in cooked tomato sauce than from raw tomatoes.

Myth #3: Iceberg lettuce doesn’t have any nutrients

Fact: It’s hardly loaded with vitamins because it is mostly water but a large head does contain small amounts of protein, fiber and minerals. There are more nutrients from other greens that have less water such as romaine or butterhead lettuce but contrary to popular belief, iceberg lettuce does have some nutritional value.

Myth #4: Local ones are always cheaper

Fact: It is true that local produce are cheaper but there are no guarantees. Local food is not in any way subsidized so you are paying the real cost of producing food and the economies of scale are not there.

To find the best deals at your local market, shop at the end of the day when farmers are likely mark down their prices in order to get rid of their inventory. You can go early if selection is more important than price. You can ask your farmer for a volume discount if he or she doesn’t already offer one. Take advantage of special deals on bruised or overripe veggies.

Myth #5: Potatoes can make you fat

Fact: It’s not the potatoes, it’s how you cooked them and what you slather on your spuds. They are fat-free and low in calories. They contain a healthy dose of fiber which can make you feel satisfied for longer and help you lose weight.

Myth #6: Bagged salads are squeaky clean

Fact: Think again! Consumer Reports tests found bacteria that are “common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination” in 39% of the 208 packages of salad greens it tested. It didn’t find E. coli 0157:H7, listeria, or other disease-causing bacteria in its samples. It is best to give greens a good rinse to remove residual soil before eating them.

Myth #7: Farmer’s markets only have organics

Fact: It doesn’t mean that veggies being sold at a farmer’s market are all organic. It must be certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a guarantee that it was grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

One Minute Blog

Trainee cops trawl web for knife gang evidence

Rookie cops in Scotland have been scouring Facebook and other social networking sites to find pictures of youths wielding violent weapons like knives, in a bid to cut teen violence.

Much of the time the young people, evidently unaware that their acts of bravado are available to all and sundry, are posing in a public place such as a park, which is an illegal offence. If they are at home, the cops pay a visit to the teen and their parents.

Constable Holly McGee, 18, told BBC Newsbeat: “We’re looking for anyone who is brandishing offensive weapons or blades. We take the date, the time, detail of what’s in the photograph, [then] a copy of the photograph is printed out and thereafter it’s all sent to the gangs task force unit.”

Operation Access, as the project is called, has led to the questioning of 400 teenagers and has been declared a success.

Source: BBC Newsbeat

Facebook Privacy Watch

CTV debate with Elizabeth May

Here’s my debate from yesterday’s CTV show, Question Period, with Elizabeth May about the oilsands.

What do you think of it?

Ezra Levant