Response to Comments on Statement of Rights and Responsibilities

April 15, 2009 at 9:07am

Thanks for taking the time to read and give feedback on the proposed Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Your involvement in this notice and comment period has been unique in the history of the Internet and your insights and perspectives have been really valuable.

As we reviewed each of your comments (and we read them all) we reconsidered the language we had written. Today, we are releasing a revised Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that reflects many changes based on your comments. And even where we did not make changes, we want to explain to you our reasoning for not doing so. (In fact, many of your comments asked for explanations rather than for changes.) Here’s a list of the topics that sparked the most debate in the Virtual Town Hall, and our take on them:

Section 2:

A number of our users, and organizations such as the Association of Photographers and the British Association of Picture Libraries, were concerned that we were asserting ownership of their content, and wanted to better understand the scope of the license grant they were giving to us. In particular, some users felt that the license enables us to do whatever we want with their content. In our latest version, we try to make it clear that you continue to own your content, and that we have only asked for those rights that we need to provide our services and features. To that end, the license is no longer irrevocable or perpetual; the license now ends when a user deletes their content or their account. In addition, we give users control over their content by making it subject to their Privacy Settings. This means, for example, that if you set your Privacy Settings so that only your friends can see a photo, we cannot show that photo to anyone but your friends. The following is a list of specific comments and questions that our users raised concerning section 2, along with our responses:

What is this license going to be used for?

A “license” is just a legal term for permission to do something, and we are simply asking for your permission to use your content in the ways set forth in this Statement and the Privacy Policy. Some examples of things we use the license for are: displaying and distributing your photos to the friends you want us to show them to; modifying or reformatting your photos so we can display smaller versions of them (such as your profile picture or when we display your photos on small devices like mobile phones); making copies so that we can have backups in case one of our servers goes down; and using your trademark in connection with the ads you place. We have more examples of how we use and share your content in our Privacy Policy.

Will Facebook take my creative works and use them for profit?

A number of users raised concerns similar to the following comment: “I am an artist. This section makes me nervous. Does this mean that Facebook plans to sell the artwork, photos or music that I post?” Facebook has never sold its users’ creative works, and has no intention of doing so in the future. But you should be aware that Facebook does try to derive revenue from its website – such as through advertising – and your content appears on our website. That said, this section limits our use of your content in two important ways that protect you. First, the rights you give Facebook are “subject to your Privacy Settings.” This means, for example, that if you set your privacy settings so that only your friends can see a photo, we cannot show that photo to anyone but your friends. Similarly, if you opt out of Social Ads in your Privacy Settings, we will respect your decision. Second, the license you give us ends when you delete your copyrighted content. This means that the minute you delete it, we will no longer use your content except in the ways we articulate in section 2.

How will Facebook use, share, and store my content?

Facebook needs the right to use, share, and store your content in order to provide Facebook to you and your friends. Our Privacy Policy explains what content we use, share, and store, and includes a number of examples (as do some of our responses to this section). In addition, your Privacy Settings give you the ability to direct and control how we use and share your content.

Why does Facebook need permission to sublicense or transfer content to a third party?

We couldn’t enable lots of functionality on Facebook if you didn’t give us permission to sublicense or transfer content to third parties. For example, in order to view content on your mobile phone we may need to transfer that content to your mobile carrier and give them a sublicense so they can show it to you.

Why does Facebook need to create derivative works from my content?

We included this language in case any of the content on Facebook is considered to be a derivative work, such as when we place your profile picture next to other content, like stories about the actions you take on Facebook.

Why can’t Facebook notify me every time it makes use of the license?

Unfortunately, our system cannot distinguish between copyrighted content and other content, so we would have to notify you every time your content was displayed. Given the amount of content that is shared on the site every day, we believe it would be a bad user experience to notify users every time their content was shared.

Why doesn’t Facebook use one of the Creative Commons Licenses?

In some ways the license grant in the Statement is more limited than the Creative Commons licenses. For example, the Creative Commons licenses are all perpetual. In addition, the Creative Commons licenses require attribution “in the manner specified by the author” and contain other restrictions (such as including Uniform Resource Identifiers) that we do not believe are feasible in a system with more than 175 million active registered users.

Why does Facebook need to keep backup copies that include my content even after I delete it (or delete my account), and how long will Facebook keep it?

We keep backup copies in case we have a problem with one of our servers and need to restore it. Because of the way we store those backup copies, it is not possible for us to remove specific content from them. We typically keep backups for no longer than 90 days (unless otherwise required by law).

If I allow a third party to have access to my content, and then I delete that content, how can I make sure they will stop using it?

Consistent with our principle of “Ownership and Control of Information,” Facebook empowers users to take their content wherever they want. However, it is the user’s responsibility to only give their content to third parties that they trust. Whenever you give a third party access to your content, you should carefully review their terms of service to make sure that you can trust them to stop using your content when you delete it from Facebook.

What is the difference between deactivating my account and deleting my account?

You can learn more about the difference between deletion and deactivation by reading our explanation here.

The word “generally” in section 2.2 should be deleted.

We agree. We have deleted the word “generally” from that section.

Section 3:

Many users expressed a desire to help us enforce our safety measures, and the truth is, you are already a very important of this process. We receive and read thousands of reports from our users everyday. Users also wanted us to clarify some of the restrictions in section 3 that were designed to keep our users safe. The following is a list of specific comments and questions that were raised in the Virtual Town Hall:

Why does Facebook ever give permission to use automated means to obtain user information?

We allow some third parties, including developers and Connect sites, to obtain user information using automated means such as our APIs so that they can help provide relevant services to you. But we only allow them to obtain your information through approved means that are designed to protect you.

Why does Facebook prohibit nudity?

It is very difficult to draw the line between what is artistic (or otherwise appropriate) and what is not. To make it easier for users to comply with this Statement, we decided to give users a bright-line rule.

Does this restriction on promoting alcohol or mature content apply to my user-generated content?

We intended this requirement to apply only to advertisers and applications, and have clarified this in the revised Statement.

Sections 4 and 6:

Users were concerned that we might terminate their accounts if they do not keep their contact information current. The following response to your comments should clarify our position on this:

Which contact information needs to be kept up to date, and what are the consequences for failure to do so?

By contact information we mean your name, contact email, mobile telephone number, and any other information you provide that we could use to contact you. We may disable any user’s account if we find their contact information is inaccurate, but typically only take action when users are causing problems on Facebook.

What does the term “promptly” in section 6.2 (updating your cell phone number) mean?

By promptly we mean as soon as possible, but no later that 48 hours. We agreed to include this section when we settled a class action brought by people getting charged for text messages intended for Facebook users.

Section 5:

Users wanted to better understand some of the restrictions we place on the content they can post on Facebook. Here are some of the specific issues that were raised:

What is the term “similar content” in section 5.8 (posting personal information) intended to include?

We are referring to similar types of sensitive information, such as passport numbers, national identity numbers, and other people’s financial information.

Does section 5.6 (Facebook’s IP rights) mean I cannot ever use the word Facebook?

What we mean here is that you may not use any of these words in a way that infringes our trademark rights. But it does not prevent you from making a nominative or fair use of those words, like telling people “I have an account on Facebook.”

Section 8:

Users wanted to know if this section applied to them. This section gives websites (and other third parties) the right to include our “Share Link” button to enables users to share the content on their sites. It was not intended to apply to users sharing that content on Facebook.

Section 9:

Users also wanted to know if this section applied to them. This section was intended to apply only to developers of applications and operators of Connect sites, and not other users. That said, users had a number of questions as to how this section might impact them. Here are our responses:

Why doesn’t Facebook insist that applications not only make it clear how they are going to use data, but also what data is going to be used?

We agree. We have made this change to the revised Statement.

How can I control the information that an application gets about me when my friend adds it?

Response: You can control the information the application gets through this Privacy Setting.

Are developers who violate section 9.2 (developer use of user data) obligated to delete my data?

Developers that violate this section are in breach of the Statement. We consider any breach of this section a serious matter. If a developer breaches section 9.2, we can (among other things) disable their application and require them to delete all data they received from us.

Why doesn’t Facebook audit every application?

We unfortunately do not have the ability to control third-party applications, and cannot guarantee they are completely safe. However, if you feel that a particular application violates this Statement, please let us know by going to the application’s About page and clicking “Report Application.”

Does this section make users “third party beneficiaries” to Facebook’s relationship with developers?

No. We have clarified this in the revised Statement.

Section 10:

Users seemed to understand that we need to generate income to provide our services, and one of the best ways to do that is by allowing advertisements on the site. But users, and organizations such as the Center for Digital Democracy, did express some concerns:

How can I limit Facebook’s use of my content in Social Ads?

We provide a very transparent opt-out approach that allows you to easily tell us when you do not want to appear in Social Ads. You can do that by visiting this Privacy Setting.

Does Facebook provide information about me to advertisers?

Facebook does not give information about you to advertisers without your consent. When an advertiser creates an ad on our site, we give them the opportunity to narrow the audience by selecting, for example, the location, age, sex, and education of the users that they feel might be most interested in their products or services. They can also type in keywords you might have used on the site. Once the advertiser places the ad, we serve the ad to users that meet the advertiser’s criteria. But we never give your name or other information about you to that advertiser without your consent.

Does Facebook allow advertisers to masquerade as a user and collect other users’ information?


Facebook should always be transparent about which communications are commercial in nature.

We believe there is a difference between advertisements (which we always try to label as sponsored) and other commercial content. For example, you can become a fan of a product, and your friends may get notified about that. That may be commercial content, but it is not an ad. And because the commercial nature of the content is usually pretty obvious, we don’t see a need to label it as sponsored or commercial.

Section 12:

How will Facebook notify me of any changes to this Statement that require a vote?
We will notify users of any change requiring a vote on the Facebook Governance Page. If you would like to receive automatic notifications of changes that we make, all you have to do is become a Fan of that page.

Other Comments:

Users had a number of other comments, some of which did not relate to just one section. We address those here:

Which countries’ laws do I need to comply with?

You are bound by the laws of the country that you live in. You may also need to comply with the laws of other jurisdictions, including the laws of the United States (because our headquarters are based in the U.S.).

How are sections like 4.3 (embargoed countries) consistent with the “One World” principle in the proposed Facebook Principles?

As we state in the Principles, our principles are constrained by limitations of applicable law.
What do you mean by Facebook’s affiliates?

We intended this definition to include our existing and future subsidiaries, as well as other entities that we directly or indirectly control (such as joint ventures).


We hope you find these responses helpful, and hope that we have addressed all of your concerns. Your trust is extremely important to us.