Facebook: A Lesson in Damage Control

facebookIt’s that easy.  Tonight, Facebook proved that it knows how to handle the shockwaves of its mistakes.

If you haven’t heard about the issue concerning the Facebook terms of service (TOS), they recently changed a section of their terms of service that dealt with their rights over user information. The community interpreted this section as granting them ownership of anything that you post on Facebook and the right to use your information however they see fit.  This didn’t sit well with many of Facebook’s users. Whether it was because of the way they informed their users (they only announced it in a blog post), or just the new terms in general, there was a public outcry about the situation and a call to switch back to the old TOS. Facebook Groups were formed, the twittersphere was buzzing, and Facebook had to react…so they did.

Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook staff heard the voice of its users  and then posted on their blog trying to explain. Mark wrote:

In reality, we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work…People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other… It’s difficult terrain to navigate and we’re going to make some missteps, but as the leading service for sharing information we take these issues and our responsibility to help resolve them very seriously.

Mark ensured his users that Facebook is a place that you should feel safe and admitted to making some mistakes.  He appealed the community honestly and respectfully.  However, after a couple days, the Facebook community still wasn’t satisfied and continued to express their feelings.  Facebook posted a poll to find that there was a strong disapproval of their new TOS.  Tonight, Facebook realized that this issue is important to its users and must be remedied, so they reverted back to the old Terms of Service and posted this on their blog.

The excerpt on the homepage read as follows:

A couple of weeks ago, we posted an update to our Terms of Use that we hoped would clarify some parts of it for our users. Over the past couple of days, we have received a lot of questions and comments about these updated terms and what they mean for people and their information. Because of the feedback we received, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

We all make mistakes.  Everyone from the expert to the graduate, from the big corporation to the smallest start-up takes a miss-step at some point.  What matters is how you deal with it.  Facebook messed up and violated something that the online community holds sacred, it’s right to its personal information.  While Facebook may have not had any intention to use this information in an unfavorable manner, its users were clearly uncomfortable and Facebook responded…quick. Now if they decide to edit their Terms of Service again (they say they will) you can be reasonably certain that they will think very much about how they communicate these changes.

The Lesson: Show that you’re listening, respond honestly and quickly. If all else fails, make the necessary sacrifice in order to keep your customers’ trust because in the end, that’s all that matters.

Well done Facebook.

6 thoughts on “Facebook: A Lesson in Damage Control

  1. Amen. But based on what I read in the Fortune article on Zuckerberg / Facebook my interest in the site is really fading- especially given his “grand” plans for facebook. Its cool, its fun, but its also extremely repetitive, always the same junk, the same blue, the same look- i want something new and without plans for world domination!

  2. Dan,

    My interest in facebook has definitely been steadily declining over the last year or so. I’d forget about it completely if all of my friends weren’t on it.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  3. Good article, but I remember when facebook “promised” all the college students that were exclusive members four years back that they would never open up the network to non-college students.

    Then high school students were allowed to join, but facebook “promised” that the two networks would remain distinct from one another.

    Now, anyone can join facebook; it’s a free-for-all.

    Just saying, they’re not fooling me with their huff and puff public relations bit.

    1. Hey Ivan, how you been? Thanks for checking out my blog.

      I definitely agree. In this post I was only discussing the way they handled the situation…what they actually end up doing is a different story.

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