EU Warns FB to Change "Misleading Terms of Service"

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The EU threatens sanctions against FB if it fails to better spell out to consumers how their data is being used. Věra Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality,  on Thursday warned FB that she will call for sanctions if it fails to change its “misleading terms of service” by the end of the year. “I am becoming rather impatient. We have been in dialogue with Facebook almost two years… I want to see not progress—that is not enough for me. I want to see results.”

The Commission flagged the following issues with the FB’s Terms:

– insufficiently explicit about how the platform monetizes users’ data. E.g., directing users via hyperlinks to Facebook’s “data policy” (which has more details) is not clear enough for EU consumers.

– granting the company a perpetual licence to user generated content even after a user quits Facebook. I don’t think this is true, though. There is no perpetual license to user generated content in FB Terms anymore. Sec. 3 of the Terms states that, “[y]ou own the content you create and share on Facebook…  and nothing in these Terms takes away the rights you have to your own content.” FB does grant itself a limited, non-exclusive license to user content. “[W]hen you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos)… you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform.” However, users can terminate this license to FB by deleting content. “You can end this license any time by deleting your content or account.” So, there is no perpetual liecnse to user generated content.

– not being clear on its obligations to remove user generated content and/or suspend or terminate an account.

– lack of an appeal option for consumers in some cases.

– FB can unilaterally change its terms of service. The Commission states that this is contrary to EU consumer legislation which identifies as unfair terms that enable “the seller or supplier to alter the terms of the contract unilaterally without a valid reason which is specified in the contract”.

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