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Debate over who owns your Facebook info continues

Facebook is once again facing a loud chorus of complaints from its faithful over how their personal information is used. Earlier this week, news of a February 4 change to the site's terms of service trickled out to users courtesy of The Consumerist, a Consumers Union blog. That change, according to The Consumerist, meant that Facebook could now use information you upload "in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later." (Here’s a link to the Facebook terms of service.)

Facing a public relations crisis, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg clarified his company's position, writing, "Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with."

Facebook users took issue with the deletion of a provision in the terms of service that said users could remove their content at any time, at which time the license would expire, and added new language that said Facebook would retain users' content and licenses after an account was terminated, The New York Times reported. Zuckerberg, however, indicated that the change in language was done for pragmatic reasons: Even when a Facebook user deactivates an account, any messages and other information (e-mail addresses or phone numbers, for example) shared with his or her friends are still in that friend's inbox or on their wall.

Zuckerberg chalked the issue up to a lack of technology. "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," Zuckerberg wrote.

This wasn't Facebook's first foray into a public relations crisis over privacy: In 2007, the site found itself in a similar situation when it introduced Beacon, software on its site that tracks members' activity when they visit sites–including Blockbuster and eBay–that have partnered with Facebook on the endeavor. In earlier versions of the software, your movie viewing or purchasing habits could be sent to your Facebook page–without your explicit permission–for all of your network of friends to see. More than 50,000 Facebook users signed a petition protesting the new program, which prompted the site to notify users before passing along updates about their activities on partner sites and let users cancel these updates if they so desired.

Image ©iStockphoto.com/Stepan Popov

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