facebook-cartoonMany of us post to Facebook, perhaps unaware of what can happen to that content and who has rights to it.  All of this came to a head a few days ago, as Facebook’s new terms of service (TOS) came to light and were met with a range of reactions from dismay to outrage.  

I’ve been reading Convergence Culture and being in Jane Jacob’s adopted home, I couldn’t help but think of how the social space of Facebook relates to how social interactions are shaped by governance and polity in online realms, as well as the idea of a commons that is a privatized space, as opposed to a public one.

While I’m resigned to the fact that there is no privacy online and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear that Facebook is being used by collections departments to locate unstealthy credit defaulters (true story), I do bristle at the idea of content being appropriated by companies hosting these web commons.

Why?  I’m using the private space of Facebook, why should I feel that what I post is still my intellectual property?  Am I being unreasonable?  After all, I push the boundaries of fair use quite a bit.

Can social network sites really be sites of democratic action, when they can ultimately be censored, not as a matter of public policy, but rather corporate TOS?  On the other side of the Web 2.0 fence, how much freedom should an organization grant users?

I feel that what any site engaging in Web 2.0 should do if they want to use content posted by users is…to simply ask them for permission.  It’s simple good manners and building of social capital.  I do think privatized social spaces or commons can be used for civic engagement, but I find emerging technologies being developed up here in Canada that allow content to be fed from multiple sites (e.g., MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) into one location to be rather interesting.  More on this in a future post.  I feel the overlap of Web 2.0 with open source will make us all rethink ownership and privacy and force organizations to ponder what intellectual property really means, what the risks are in terms of what the courts are stating, and how to implement processes.  Or not.  That devil inertia.