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Today in class the exercise was to review Facebook’s Terms of Service.

I thought I would share some of our insights with you.  First, the Terms of Service is not comprehensive.  It incorporates five other inter-related documents: Principles at   And then a host of other pages:

You may also want to review the following documents, which provide additional information about your use of Facebook:

§  Data Use Policy: The Data Use Policy contains information to help you understand how we collect and use information.

§  Payment Terms: These additional terms apply to all payments made on or through Facebook.

§  Platform Page: This page helps you better understand what happens when you add a third-party application or use Facebook Connect, including how they may access and use your data.

§  Facebook Platform Policies: These guidelines outline the policies that apply to applications, including Connect sites.

§  Advertising Guidelines: These guidelines outline the policies that apply to advertisements placed on Facebook.

§  Promotions Guidelines: These guidelines outline the policies that apply if you offer contests, sweepstakes, and other types of promotions on Facebook.

§  Facebook Brand Resources: These guidelines outline the policies that apply to use of Facebook trademarks, logos and screenshots.

§  How to Report Claims of Intellectual Property Infringement

§  Pages Terms: These guidelines apply to your use of Facebook Pages.

§  Community Standards: These guidelines outline our expectations regarding the content you post to Facebook and your activity on Facebook.


What is the first thing that you notice?  Should be that there is no privacy policy per se.  If you go to the footer, where the F.T.C. required “privacy policy” lives and click on the link, it takes you to a data use policy.  Telling: Facebook is sending the message that in fact it is not offering you any more privacy than the user’s ability to manipulate settings for other people to see; between you and them, as a matter of intellectual property you own you content, but they reserve all rights to do whatever they want with it.  The other obvious observation is the need for an advanced law and graduate degrees to put all of this information together to have a clear understanding of what it means.  I confess: I was not up for the task, and I can assure you my students were not either.

What we found most interesting is tucked in the Principles.  Take a look at Provision #4:

1.     Fundamental Equality

Every Person - whether individual, advertiser, developer, organization, or other entity - should have representation and access to distribution and information within the Facebook Service, regardless of the Person's primary activity. There should be a single set of principles, rights, and responsibilities that should apply to all People using the Facebook Service.

This is an eye-opener for me!  As an American historian and student of the U.S. Constitution, I was taken aback by the contrast between my associations to “equality” and Facebook’s.  My associations go to broad historical movements related to social categories such as race, national origin, gender and creed.  Facebook casts those categories to the dustbin of history!  Instead we have a new construct picked up from the scraps of corporate law and readapted to a twenty-first century paradigm of an information technology economy glommed together under the new designation: Person, always spelled with a capital “P.”  That category includes individual people, corporations, and other unincorporated groups such as “developers” and “organizations,” but what is most notable is that one corporate sector is called out for special recognition as a “Person:” advertisers.

Welcome to the New World Order!

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