Beware of Facebook’s New Terms of Service

Q: What Did Facebook Do Now?

A: Facebook announced new Terms of Service and privacy policies that radically increase Facebook’s power to exploit your content and identity. These were supposed to go into effect September 5, 2013, but were protested by a number of groups and professional organizations, including ASMP, and implementation has so far been delayed. According to the theNew York Times, the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook’s latest overhaul of its privacy policies.


Read More Here:


Q: What Do These Changes Let Facebook Do With My Information and Content?

A: These changes appear to allow Facebook to exploit your name, likeness, content, images, private information, and personal brand by using it in advertising and in commercial and sponsored content — without anycompensation to you. Facebook claims the right to monetize, not just your images, but a sizable portion of your entire online identity.


While this should not be a surprise to anyone, we find the direction of these changes to be alarming.


Q: Why Is Facebook Doing This?

A: Many of the issues raised by these new terms of service are directly related to the class-action lawsuit Fraley V. Facebook — a case related to Facebook use of user photos and names in conjunction with “Sponsored Stories.” As part of this settlement, Facebook has been directed to update their TOS to reflect their practices. However, the language in the updated TOS is far-reaching and goes well beyond the compliance ordered in the settlement, allowing for several possible uses beyond the scope of this compliance order.


Q: I Don’t Share a Lot of Private Information or Images on Facebook. What Does This Mean For Me?

A: Facebook is still collecting and exploiting private information about you. It is ASMP’s interpretation that the statement “…when you are using Facebook, or when Facebook is running” allows Facebook to monitor your web browsing, as well as to gather information from your mobile phone while the Facebook mobile app is running, such as your location, recent calls and other mobile activities.


Q: Can’t I Protect Myself by Making My Profile Private?

A: Maybe, but probably not.


Facebook has specifically removed the language from their TOS that allows you to limit how your likeness, information, and content are associated with brands, commercial uses, or spnsored posts. The have also removed the clause that makes them subjects to the privacy limits set in place by you on your profile.


Check out this excerpt from the TOS Changes; the bold text is new additions to the TOS, the strikethroughs are language that is being removed from the TOS. This is one of the most important pieces of language in the whole document.


You can use your privacy settings to limit how your name and profile picture may be associated with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. You give us permission to use your name, and profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related that content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us, subject to the limits you place. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you. If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.


Facebook has not removed all reference to Privacy Settings, but there is a conflict between the several references in the document.


Q: Can I Protect Myself by Applying a Watermark to My Images

A: Possibly not. This is another area that is unclear.


The TOS that Facebook asserts are far-reaching, vague, and favor Facebook. Facebook may have the ability to alter files or use them as they see fit under the rights granted in their TOS.


Q: I Have Shared a Lot of Images on Facebook Over the Years. Should I Take Them Down?

A: The termination clause and remedies that Facebook offers are vague and complicated. Essentially, even if you remove your work from Facebook, the service’s license may still apply if other people have shared or posted that work and it still exists on their servers. True removal can be difficult to enforce or prove. Anyone with a large and commercially viable body of work uploaded to Facebook should consider whether the promotional value gained from Facebook outweighs the value of an unlimited license you may be granting Facebook.


Q: Do You Really Think Facebook is Going to Use My Images?

A: Whether or not Facebook uses or sells your images is only the beginning of the problem. There are myriad other privacy and data protection issues at hand. There are also some very important business and legal concerns for photographers to consider. For instance, imagine that a client comes to you in a few months and wants to license an image from you for exclusive commercial use. If that image is posted on Facebook, you would not be able to offer exclusivity to that client because Facebook’s preexisting license to that image would be a conflict. If you were to go through with that agreement, you could be in breach of one contract or the other.


You may still own the images you post on Facebook — but you will have lost a large amount of control over these images.


Q: I Read a Statement From Facebook That Said They Would Respect My Privacy and Content. What’s Up With That?

A: You must be referring to this:


While this friendly statement may seem to break down many of the proposed changes into easy to digest language, the real nature of the these changes is apparent when you start to read the documents that lay out the legal language for the actual proposed updates.


No one likes reading Terms of Service and agreements, but in this time where our very identities are being commodified and exploited, it is more important than ever to understand what you are agreeing to when you use these services. These Terms of Service are open-ended, vague, and far-reaching. Please take the time to read them, or contact us with questions at


Please read the full document here:


Or a more in-depth analysis by Peter Krogh here:


Q: What Can I Do?

A: There are a few things you can do about this to prevent it from becoming the norm for online services.


  1. Share smart — We recognize the value that Facebook has as a tool for many photographers in marketing themselves. We suggest that if you are going to share, don’t post your images directly on Facebook; instead post a link from a publication platform that you control, such as your own website.
  2. Become informed — Read and analyze these proposed changes and how they effect you. Ask questions.
  3. Spread the word — Talk to your friends, students, family, and colleagues about these changes and how they may effect you personally and professionally.
  4. Contact Facebook directly — Let them know how you feel about these changes and how they affect you both as a creator and as a user of their service.
  5. Call for action — Help others to become informed, and urge other professional organizations and entities you are a member of or work with to partner with organizations like ASMP and others as they work to ensure fair and respectful treatment of users by online services like Facebook and Instagram.

Q: Should I Leave Facebook?
I Don’t Use Facebook, So Why Should I Care?

A: One of the things ASMP and its allies are most concerned about is that these types of terms and attitudes towards users’ content are becoming the norm. Facebook is a leader among online communities and services, and as they go, so do several others. Turning a blind eye to these changes simply because you do not use one service ignores a more important change in the overall culture of the internet and how online companies view and respect their users’ information and content. Change does not happen in silence, but through the voices of many people speaking as one. We believe that social media is an important tool for many creatives and is important to how we communicate in the digital era. Because of this, we want to see Facebook become a place where users are respected and their experience is a positive one, rather than feeling victimized or exploited.