Thursday, February 19, 2009


By now I don't think there's anyone in America who hasn't heard about the
Facebook Terms of Service controversy. NBC Nightly News even did a segment
on it today. I'm not good at legalese but I believe it boiled down to anything we
posted would still be archived there even if we should discontinue our memberships.
Due to the reaction that followed, Facebook has gone back to the previous Terms
of Service but the damage has been done and some of my fellow Genea-bloggers
have left Facebook.

The question has been asked why there has there not been as fierce a reaction by
the genealogy blogging community to Facebooks action as there was to Ancestry
last year when contents of blogs turned up on Ancestry? I think the reason is that
there is a bit of difference in what Ancestry did from Facebook. As I recall(and if
I'm wrong, folks, please correct me.) the Ancestry incident involved using the
cached blog entries in a "Internet Biographical Collection " that only paying
subscribers to could view. The authors had not given permission for
this and felt their copyright notices had been violated. Genealogy bloggers protested
vigorously, and Ancestry removed the material from

Now with Facebook, we have posted whatever information about ourselves we wish.
It's our choice to share with this with others but sometimes we find out we have shared
with more "others" than we intended, because what we share with our Friends is also
shared with their Friends who may not know. So privacy is an issue. And if we post
research to Facebook, either by Notes or by a blog feed, we're also sharing, but in most
cases its information we already posted on our blogs, so it could just as easily be found
by someone Googling "genealogy blogs" even if we leave Facebooks and all our posts
there were deleted.

Yahoo has a similar TOS to the one Facebook tried to change to and a message board
I've been on for years discussed it because there were some folks posting stories to it
who worried about copyright matters. I decided I had no problem with it because I
wanted to share my stories with my friends. I have the same viewpoint on sharing my
genealogical research so I wasn't as upset with Facebook as I was with Ancestry.

In the past week because of information I posted on Facebook, I've come into contact
with two West cousins, one I didn't know about and one I haven't had contact with in
years. They might have eventually found my blog online, or maybe not. Perhaps if and
when I leave Facebook, someone else might stumble across my Notes there and contact
me, the same way I've found people through years old posts on Genforum message
boards. And I've had people from family, high school, college, and work "Friend" me
as other reasons to stay on.

So, speaking only for myself, that's why I was not as angry about Facebook as I was
about the Ancestry incident.

Besides, who'd take care of my Lil' Green Patch if I left?

Probably not the most coherent discussion of the matter you folks will read about the
whole affair, but it's the best I could do.


Cherie said...

Yours is the first piece I've read on this subject that comes close to how I feel about Facebook and the new TOS. I just can't get as upset as some people have. I share my information online because I want people to find me. I have a hard time believing that Facebook is interested in selling my blog posts or anything else that I have shared there, and from what I have read, they never said that they are trying to assert control over what I have posted. My belief is that they awkwardly tried to include a warning that whatever you post on their site will probably be there forever, which is something everyone who uses the internet should realize.

Tom H. C. Anderson said...

Agree with the reaction to the new TOS, but felt the response by Zuckenberg was good. I posted about it on my blog yesterday, along with some tips for Facebook and other companies who may be involved in managing CGM. We've done a lot of work in this area, and these companies need to learn to trust their user community a bit more, if they do they can even be leveraged to keep moderation costs down etc.

Post here:

Tom H. C. Anderson
Managing Partner
Anderson Analytics, LLC

Gena Philibert Ortega said...


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Taylorstales-Genealogy said...

I agree with your thoughts on Facebook.

I have also nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award!

You can pick it up at my blog..

I enjoy your blog friend!