Facebook Privacy Fallout Goes Nuclear

Online, in print and on TV, Consumerist’s Facebook terms of service change story, and the ensuing global uproar, has spread like Ebola in a monkey house…

750+ articles have been written about it so far in places like, New York Times, NPR, AP, Reuters, USA Today, SF Gate, AJC, Chicago Tribune, ZDNET, CNET, and NBC.

Plus mentions on CNN, MSNBC, Sky News, and others, and two days after we broke the story, it’s still one of the most talked about subjects on Twitter, and over 64,000 users have joined a Facebook group protesting the terms of service change, plus 6,000+ Diggs, 528,000+ pageviews and 350+ comments on the original post…

…all this because of one tip, sent in by one reader, to tips@consumerist.com… However powerful this blog is, it’s because of you, and for you, Consumerist readers.

(Photo: leafar.)


Edit Your Comment

  1. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    knowing is half the battle, sending it to consumerist.com is the other half. the winning half.

  2. TheRealJMX says:

    Congratulations. Regardless of the outcome, this is a victory for consumers everywhere. What THE LITTLE GUY does CAN make a difference.

    • bogart27 says:

      @TheRealJMX: I don’t know… I wouldn’t really call this a victory. Am I the only one who thinks the whole thing was blown way out of proportion? It seems to have just been turned into pointless fear-mongering about your ‘online rights’.

      Sure the little guy can make a difference, but what if he’s misinformed and scared? What kind of difference will he make?

      • Cyberxion101 says:

        @bogart27: There’s little misinformation at play here. There is, however, a whole lot of freely interpretable legalese floating around out there, and I will grant you that some people may have overstated the problem.

        I’m one of those guys who tends not to worry about something until it’s a problem, though in this case I can see why the possibilities would have been discussed well in advance of any evidence that they’re going to be a problem at all. This is something that it pays to be proactive about just in case those worst-case scenarios come to fruition.

  3. TheDustball says:

    Awesome! Very cool to see this blog fulfilling its purpose. I hope CR knows what an awesome buy they made here. You guys and the good commenters and tipsters are the best!

  4. Alternate: They will know, Helghan belongs to the Helghast says:

    Totally awesome. This is why I love site like The Consumerist.

  5. Lucky225 says:

    LOL, wife heard about this on The View this morning LOLOLOL I was like, yea that was so consumerist 2 days ago

  6. TheRealJMX says:


  7. GovernorWatts says:

    nd hwvr mch msnfrmtn s sprd t rdrs, t’s bcs f th lltrcy f th Cnsmrst blggrs.

    Y gt PWND by CNN tdy:

    “Fcbk’s trms f srvc clm tht th cmpny DS NT hv wnrshp vr cntnt”

    Rdng cmprhnsn sklls fr th gd dmn WN.

    Hr’s my dvc: Hr tw mr gys. Y nd n gy n yr stff wh cn cmprhnd lgls, nd myb nthr gy pssssd f t lst pssng fmlrty wth ntllctl prprty lws.

    • levenhopper says:

      @GovernorWatts: Usually I can piece together what the “disemvoweled” comment says…but this one is too far out there for me.

      • Ghede says:

        @levenhopper: He is basically calling the Consumerist blogger’s illiterate, then say that they got pwned by cnn because they contradict the Consumerist story, then pulls a 4chan meme out of his ass, then gives snide advice.

    • unojack says:

      @GovernorWatts: its all good. I just think his keyboard is allergic to vowels. I had a dog like that once; should’ve seen it try to eat alphabet soup… hilarious!

  8. Levi Martin says:

    I love this friggen site.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Facebook bitten by the viral mania that grew it. Can you say “too big for your little britches”?

  10. Trai_Dep says:

    I hereby nominate spreading like Ebola at the Monkey House as the next Consumerist export to gain 750+ articles, 6000+ Diggs, 528,000 pageviews, et al.
    Because it’s that delicious! Bravisimo, Ben – inspired!

  11. redkamel says:

    ha ha yes! Man when that Matt Zuckert guy messes up, he really hears about it!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Just posted as I went to log out from Facebook now:

    Over the past few days, we have received a lot of good feedback about the new terms we posted two weeks ago. Because of this response, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.

  13. Telekinesis123 says:

    Sorry about the spelling error in the Digg title…D’oh, I’m usually overly conscious about that sort of stuff I think…worst time for an error, but at least your guy’s awesome story got out nevertheless! Congrats.

    I read your guy’s blog every day if I can…usually with my morning coffee, I’ve been loving it ever since I’ve found it. The stories are always a great conversation starter and supplementer….psst, people think I’m really smart now.

  14. Rae Carson says:

    It’s little things like that which give me hope for humanity. If people get all arsey over things like this, there’s no limit to what we would be able to accomplish for other no-less-worthy things, such as raising awareness for global poverty, climate change, etc. Making people CARE about those things is another matter entirely… If TC can figure out a way to do that, they could rule the solar system.

  15. shoegazer says:

    Wow is Gawker kicking itself right now? Consumerist scoops a huge, Web 2.0 related story, namechecked in NYT, etc? Bravo.

    • MissPeacock says:

      @shoegazer: I was *so* coming on here to say that. Suck it, Nick Denton!

    • kyle4 says:

      @shoegazer: Me three. Look at the view counts now because of this. Around 570,000 for that one article, then 17,000 and up for some newer ones. The Consumerist is doing better then Kotaku and Gizmodo now. After reading the posts here for over a year, I’ve never seen numbers this high.
      Congratulations, this couldn’t of happened to a better site! Now more Consumers will be helped out.

  16. Neil Walker says:

    People are only now beginning to understand the implications of trusting Facebook with their personal information and photographs.

    Here in Australia, Australia Associated Press (AAP) make Facebook photos of the recently deceased available to media outlets via an Image Gallery on their site. AAP refused to confirm whether they have a commercial arrangement with Facebook. Facebook did not respond before publication. I wrote an article for Australian media website Crikey on the subject [www.crikey.com.au] Unfortunately, it’s subscriber read only but if anyone is interested feel free to email me at: mediamook@gmail.com and happy to email copy of full article to you.

    Hope this comment isn’t excessively self-promotional. Just keen to get an answer from Facebook and/or AAP or whether they have a commercial arrangement in place.

    • bogart27 says:

      @Neil Walker: Do you not think it’s ironic that you are using your Facebook account to make that statement?

      I only bring this up because you’ve allowed me to look at your profile photo and see the names and photos of all of your friends.

      I don’t mean for that to sound creepy or douchy, just saying.

  17. Its_Miller_Time says:

    It even made my local news where I live…

    …it was their “Opening Story” on the 10:00 news last night…

  18. post_break says:

    Heh even back on the old TOS I am working my way through deleting my account.

  19. Blueskylaw says:

    Can someone come up with a program to re-invowel the disemvoweled?

  20. HYPEractive says:

    dont forget about us redditors!!

  21. tinmanx says:

    There’s no getting away from facebook, even if you don’t have an account. I just recently created an account (after refusing to do so for years) and I realize that even thought I didn’t have a facebook account and haven’t uploaded any photos, my photos are all over the place, all uploaded by people I know.

    But if you are on facebook, you get email notifications that someone has tagged you on a photo, and you get a chance to tell ’em to remove it if it’s not a photo that you want online. You don’t get a chance to do that without a facebook account.

  22. econobiker says:

    Obviously, Facebook is used by many journalism industry talking heads. That this terms of service managed to get more coverage than third party candidates in the last presidential election kind of shows that…

  23. Saboth says:

    I removed my facebook, myspace, etc etc accounts right before getting married.

  24. nudger says:

    Very clever response on two counts.

    First is the concession on principle. It’s a classic opening gambit in hardball negotiations. Doing so gets the noise level down, and hands the battle off to the lawyers, activists and fine print. And, as we all know, you can get pretty much anything you want by carefully crafting the fine print.

    Second is the broad invitation to help draft the Facebook Bill or Rights. This engages the existing community, and only brings more attention to the site. And it might even result in the discovery of a virtual James Madison.

    Evil, but Brilliant. John Malone would be proud.

  25. NTIV10 says:

    Are these morons ever going to learn that they can’t pull this kind of shit without telling their users first? How many times now have they had to do a 180 after they pissed off a few hundred thousand members with an abrupt radical change in policy?

  26. dcityofXcess says:

    I signed up facebook to connect with my friends and family but with the new terms they just announced, I deleted my pictures and I will urge my friends and family to terminate their accounts and start using other services. I don’t know what facebook founder was thinking! It doesn’t make any sense to me to take ownership of people’s pictures and info unless he has a very good reason in mind that would benefit himself! Just terminate you account folks, facebook is not the only type of service available!

  27. Denny Bonewitz says:

    Be aware users!! As someone who has formerly worked for a data aggregation company, I know firsthand that it is possible for data companies to set up web crawlers that “look” at the data posted on these public forums. Any type of information that might be valuable to their customers is collected–names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Just keep in mind that your identity and information is not as private as you might wish it to be.

  28. Caprica Six says:

    you guys rock. You were all quoted in the SF Chronicle this morn too:

    “The changes sparked an uproar after popular consumer rights advocacy blog Consumerist.com pointed them out Sunday, in a post titled “Facebook’s New Terms Of Service: ‘We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.'”


  29. Dean Siracusa says:

    While Facebook has reverted to their previous contract, my biggest beef with the Facebook Terms of Service still hasn’t changed. Specifically, the TOS has always said that they can sublicense your images, video, etc… to anyone without compensation to you. That essentially makes them a stock photo agency with the worst terms in history. See the underlined portion of the contract.

    This is what I have a problem with: “…fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense)…” and “….and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or otherwise…”

    Sublicense means to be able to rent your work, photos, video, music, etc… to others. You are still relinquishing your rights to your work according to the Facebook TOS.

  30. Michael Belisle says:

    The AP article takes care of one headline from the wish list:

    13 Headlines The Consumerist Editors Wish They Could Write

    • CSRS Complain About Hold Times To Speak With Busy Customers
    • Newspaper Wire Service Quotes Consumer News Blog By Name
    • Finally Accepting Reality, Microsoft Debuts “Refurbished XBOX 360 Of The Month Club”

  31. Frank Ramirez says:

    Let go of my EGO
    Individuals & Companies speak through their actions. The frequency and consistency of actions over time define the person and the brand. Facebook has shown a frequent and consistent disregard for member’s privacy.

    11 examples of ethics and privacy issues at FB
    1. Ethics questions linger surrounding inception of Facebook (FB) (Lawsuit)
    2. FB engages in virtual profile enhancement from unknown third party sources
    3. FB web beacon tracking users on/off site without notification and sharing data with 3rd parties
    4. FB complicated and confusing privacy settings that discourage their use
    5. FB has had past security breaches where “private” profiles were hacked and downloaded
    6. FB received “substantial privacy threat” designation for privacy by International Privacy Group
    7. FB use of members social graph networks without their permission to market products
    8. FB promoted etrust rubber stamp of cleanliness that conveniently left out offsite web tracking
    9. FB made silent TOS changes regarding data ownership
    10. FB made silent TOS changes implementing onerous data retention policies

    Do 10 violations constitute a pattern of deception?
    FB’s track record = say one thing, do another, make an apology, partially back off with no real commitment to minimize PR damage.

    Ask yourself:
    Can you suggest to anyone that they trust a vendor that perpetually engages in privacy abuse just because they recant each time they do it? Would you? Why do you let the blue fox guard your henhouse?

    Take Control:
    You can begin to take control of your privacy and save & make some money at KindClicks http://www.kindclicks.com Help yourself. Help the world. Join KindClicks.

    KindClicks – Where your information is your business â„¢

  32. Frank Ramirez says:

    oops – that is truste not etrust on FB rubber stamp. apologies.