Facebook – A Responsible Approach to Data Ownership

Our application SocialSafe was launched in mid-June this year and in its first version allowed users to download to their desktop computer details of their Friends, their own profile, all their photos and also 3rd party photos in which the user was tagged.  All this was accomplished using the comprehensive Facebook API which developers can use for free, subject to Facebook’s Terms of Service.  From reviews and comments received SocialSafe has been welcomed by all as an extremely valuable service; however, whilst acknowledging the utility of SocialSafe, Facebook have raised the question to us of whether we are breaching the privacy rules associated with Facebook data by downloading tagged photos without explicit permission from the users who posted the photos.

We had considered this originally and felt that as the SocialSafe user was in the photo and as the originator’s privacy settings allowed the user to see and be tagged in the photo that this was giving implicit permission for the user to download the photo; however, as this was not a clear cut case we included a notification process to tell the photo originator that our SocialSafe user had downloaded the photo.  After receiving an indication from Facebook that they felt that explicit permission was required, rather than the implicit permission we were relying on, we re-evaluated our policy.  Taking the view that we have already expressed on this blog that the data belongs to the originator (summed up in the phrase “Its your data”), we are making some changes because whilst it is OK to download to your desktop any data you have originated on Facebook through the Facebook API, we believe downloading any data from another user does require explicit permission from that other user.

As a result we will this week put out an update to SocialSafe which temporarily removes the tagged photo download functionality (the update also includes a new Time Capsule feature).  We will be restoring the tagged photo functionality in a subsequent version we hope to release in two to three weeks, but this time we will include a smart method for friends of the SocialSafe user to explicitly authorise or prohibit the download of their photos for that SocialSafe user.  This will involve users in an extra step, but will ensure that SocialSafe follows the cleanest data policy of all – the user who originates data owns it and must authorise anybody else to use it.

We recognise that users who have bought SocialSafe to date have done so in good faith believing that the existing functionality will remain as is, whilst future updates will come with increasing functionality (such as the Time Capsule feature being released this week).  We believe that we have found a good solution to downloading tagged photos, but ultimately some of our existing users may not agree and may feel that we have unilaterally reduced the available functionality to their detriment.  If you are such a user then we are happy to offer you an unconditional refund of your payment to us – please just contact us with a request for repayment and we will do so within 3 days and hopefully sooner.

At SocialSafe we are, as our name suggests, committed to keeping your social data safe and to having the most explicit and correct privacy policy to protect everyone’s data.  We believe the change in policy we have described above reflects this and we hope you feel so too.  Future updates to SocialSafe will follow this policy, as will other products from the iBundle stable (iBundle and 1minus1 are Joint Venture partners in the production of SocialSafe).

Julian Ranger

Chairman iBundle & SocialSafe

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