“Please breathe slowly into the brown paper bag…”

There’s been a bit of hyperventilating today about a change in Facebook’s Terms of Service (TOS). For example, Stan Schroeder says (on Mashable):

Yes, with Facebook Connect in place, it’s likely that Facebook simply must do this in order to avoid possible lawsuits over content that isn’t even stored by them anymore. However, the same commenter rightfully notices that “…yes, it also means they can sell your photos or use them in advertising with no recompense to you.”

It’s not just your stuff, it’s everyone’s stuff

The possible implications of this TOS change go beyond these concerns. Sure, you can choose not to use Facebook at all, but that doesn’t mean a thing. Someone can still take your photo, slap it on Facebook, and now neither you nor the author of the photo can stop Facebook from using the photo in whichever way they please.

Looking at it globally, millions of people are uploading bits of information on everyone and everything, to a huge online database, and by doing so they’re automatically giving away the rights to use or modify this information to a private corporation. And not only that; they now also waiver (sic) the right to ever take it back from it.

Facebook should take a long, deep look into how it treats its users. Until now, users had options with regards to how the data they generated on Facebook was used. Now, they have no options whatsoever, rather than quit the service altogether. It’s a major difference; I’m not going to take it lightly, and neither should you.

Actually, Stan’s take is a bit less extreme than some I’ve seen; at least he recognizes the need with Facebook Connect for Facebook to protect itself from lawsuits.

But for the others who are expressing such extreme distress over the change, I have one main question, and a few related thoughts:

Do you really think the photos of you are that interesting?

Facebook users upload nearly a BILLION PHOTOS A MONTH! I overstated that a bit; it’s really 850 million, but I rounded up for effect.

If you were to decide to delete your photos, do you think Mark Zuckerberg & Co. will forage through their digital trash so they can show your picture to some user from China?

This language change seems to me to be strictly about preventing frivolous lawsuits. If I delete a photo, I’m betting it will stay deleted. No one else cares about it. This new language just says I can’t sue if it does somehow surface.

Maybe professional photographers who make their living from photos would possibly have some concern about the change. But for us run-of-the-mill amateurs, I don’t think we have any cause for distress.

Meanwhile, here’s a good article from Time you should check out (hat tip: Daniel Rothamel): Why Facebook is for Old Fogies.