Facebook users should be cautious about content

Oops. You might have just signed your life away to Facebook.

After the beloved social networking site adapted its terms of use earlier this month to say that the company has the right to use any posted material even if a user terminates his or her account, about 50,000 users joined a group called “People Against the new Terms of Service (TOS)” – with good reason.

The Consumerist, a consumer advocacy blog, claimed the new rules amounted to Facebook saying “We can do anything we want with your content. Forever.” The post has received more than half a million page views as of Tuesday.

Though Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook chief executive officer, said in a blog post that he believes people “own their information and control who they share it with,” and that the company “wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want,” there is nothing to stop the company from using material for any purpose, including commercial gain. So it’s not entirely far-fetched to imagine the company selling the rights to a posted photo that could end up in an advertisement, for example.

This should send a clear message that Facebook users must be exceptionally careful when deciding what content to post, not to mention which actions to partake in when cameras are present. The content users post – even detagged photos and deleted wall posts and messages – is a part of cyberspace forever. People shouldn’t just worry about prospective employers seeing potentially objectionable content. It’s bigger than that.

No matter what Facebook uses posted items for, all users must be aware that everything they say online or do in the presence of cameras could resurface.

For most users, Facebook is fun way to keep in touch. Though being more selective with posted content may seem to inhibit that enjoyment, it could prevent a great deal of anguish in the long run.

Editor-in-chief Max Landman for the editorial board.