Topic: Science & Technology
A few comments on Facebook’s various ethics problems, which have been
much in the news lately:
I must confess, it didn’t bother me much, even though I occasionally
post pieces destined for the Scoreboard on Facebook. It was obvious
to me that Facebook was trying to protect itself from future lawsuits
from lapsed users who would try to hold the company responsible for
keeping the photos they posted from traveling around the internet. Facebook
could misuse the eternal license, of course, by selling user-generated
content or using it for other commercial purposes, but it wouldn’t.
Such conduct would run it out of business. Similarly, Fed-Ex has a provision
in its contract that allows it to open and examine any package, but
if it used that right irresponsibly, the company would be destroyed.
The best example of ridiculous Terms of Service over-reaching is for
iTunes, which makes users promise that they won’t use iTunes to create
Weapons of Mass Destruction. You know: like those weapons that play
“Feelings” or “The Pina Colada Song” at mega-volume until it drives
But changing the rules without notice is bad business, bad public relations,
and bad ethics too. Trust is at low tide these days, and small wonder.
When Facebook’s president put out a calming statement that his company
would never use the new terms in obnoxious ways, the membership was
not convinced. Such was the uproar that Facebook retracted the change,
and now some lazy Facebook lawyers (who should have anticipated how
offensive the typical “let’s get a waiver of everything we can, just
to be on the safe side” approach would be to its company’s market) will
have to solve Facebook’s real problems regarding abandoned content with
precision rather than the kitchen sink.
I would argue that it is unethical for an employer to even request
access. This places the employee/applicant in the untenable position
of having to choose between opening up private content or looking as
if there is something to hide by rejecting the employer’s request.
This doesn’t mean that Facebook users shouldn’t be careful about posting things on their pages that might make them look untrustworthy or otherwise unattractive to employers. But if I found out my potential employer found a way to see my Facebook profile without getting my permission, he would be an ex-potential employer.