Facebook's response to new privacy concerns: trust us

Facebook's CEO is downplaying concerns that recent changes made to the terms of service for the social networking website could erode user privacy.

Facebook's CEO is downplaying concerns that recent changes made to the terms of service for the social networking website could erode user privacy.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is shown in this July 2008 file photo. He said Monday that recent changes to Facebook's terms of service are meant to reflect how account holders use the social networking site.

In a change to its terms of service announced on Feb. 4, Facebook deleted a paragraph that allowed its 175 million users to remove content from the site at any time.

CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a Monday blog post the changes were made to reflect how account holders use the site.

When a user shares a message on Facebook with a friend, a copy of the content remains in the friend's inbox, he said. This content remains, regardless of whether the sender has deactivated his or her account or not.

"We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like email work. One of the reasons we updated our terms was to make this more clear," he said.

"In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want," he wrote. "The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work."

Facebook has in its terms of service a provision that allows it to change or delete any of the terms without notice.

The change had touched off a storm of criticism from blogs, users and consumer advocates accusing Facebook of undermining user privacy. Facebook users have also created groups voicing opposition to the changes.

"Make sure you never upload anything you don't feel comfortable giving away forever, because it's Facebook's now," consumer advocacy website the Consumerist said in a post on Sunday.

Language in terms of service 'overly formal'

But Future of Privacy Forum director Jules Polonetsky told Agence France Presse that the changes reflect "common language in every website because their cut-throat lawyer says you need to cover yourself."

"Folks should just calm down."

Zuckerberg acknowledged a need for greater clarity in Facebook's policies.

"A lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective of the rights we need to provide this service to you," he said in his post. "Over time we will continue to clarify our positions and make the terms simpler."

Barry Schnitt, a Facebook spokesperson, told the New York Times that "we certainly did not — and did not intend — to create any new right or interest for Facebook in users' data by issuing the new terms."