Be honest. Sometime soon, you -- like millions of others around the world -- are going to log in to your Facebook account to announce what you're doing, upload a few photos from your weekend escapades, write a "25 Random Things About Me" note or find some other way to avoid the work you're supposed to be doing. But you might want to reconsider. As of Feb. 4, Facebook has claimed rights to all your data in perpetuity. The decision, which outraged many of the social network's 175 million members, is a reminder of how vulnerable Internet users are to the whims of the companies they trust online.
Facebook became the world's most popular social network by enabling people to assemble private groups of friends and broadcast information to them about their lives. It initially assured users that when they removed items or quit the network, any rights it claimed to the uploaded material would end. But earlier this month, the company oh-so-quietly excised that assurance from its terms of service and reinforced its never-ending right to use anything anyone posts -- notes, photos, videos, personal details -- "on or in connection with" the site. It also granted itself broad rights to use members' names and likenesses on the site or in its advertisements.