smartphone-protest

Dear Facebook, your products are revolting

We’ve introduced a new page, Your voice, that lets you know how users feel about the terms of service from internet giants like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and others. Here’s why we did it.

Users of online services like Facebook have long been told, “If the service is free, you are the product.” History will show that as ‘products’, we users have worked in tireless service, feeding the monumental machines of free online services with our personal data and content.

But what about the terms of this most valuable service? Are they fair, and what can we do about them if our rights are being quashed under a weight of legal jargon and get-out clauses?

Ghosts in the machine

Our pursuit to animate and populate our favourite digital playgrounds with a constant stream of searches, pins, tweets, posts, and updates, reveals our greatest strengths as ‘products’ of our time: the magic of individual contribution – and the power of what we can do collectively in the digital world. It’s this same magic and power that now gives us ‘products’ a voice to reckon with if the terms of our service fall short. We are no longer silent ghosts in the machine.

Value yourself

CitizenMe helps everyday users of the Internet to take back control and value themselves in the digital age. Your rights shouldn’t be a mystery to you because you’re not a lawyer, and don’t have time wade through a 6,000-word terms of service document! We’ve translated all of that into a simple traffic-light system where terms can be viewed at a glance as ‘good’ (green), ‘neutral’ (amber), or ‘bad’ (red). It’s how we define transparency of terms for everyone. So finally, the lights are on and we all know what we’re looking at. So what next?

Terms of service agreements are so often a dictatorship of terms from provider to user. In summary: ‘Agree to [insert 6,000-word policy we know you won’t read] or get lost.’ That’s it. No discussion, no conversation, one-click and your fate is sealed. And this worked for a very long time. We users grumble from time to time, sure, but ultimately, we all want the digital goods on offer, so we click ‘I Agree’. Case closed? Not quite…

You see, there’s quite a lot of us ‘products’ out there…more than 1Billion in Facebook’s case. Collectively, we have a voice so strong that it can’t be ignored, and it’s only one click away.

Your voice

Already over 10,000 votes have been cast using CitizenMe. You’ve been inspired to take action and share your opinion if you think terms are ‘reasonable’ or ‘unreasonable’.

The result is the new, dynamically updated, Your voice page on the CitizenMe site. Think of it as a real-time barometer of how individual users collectively feel about the terms of service they are bound to. So how are things shaping up?

Facebook vs the people

At the time of posting, the results are not good for Facebook. The biggest bone of contention is with their broad copyright licence that effectively allows Facebook to ‘use’ your content any way it pleases. We already know Facebook shares your data with its partners – so it’s not surprising that users assume Facebook will commercialize content, regardless of their claims otherwise.

It’s not enough that their new privacy policy tells users what other users see about you. Where’s the transparency and simplification as far as Facebook itself and their use of our content is concerned? If there really is no intention to commercialize user content – why not limit the copyright licence to say so? Facebook can’t keep vague terms in their back pocket for a rainy day and expect users to blindly trust them on their word…they killed the trust optionalready when they experimented on users feeds. Yeah, that.

But in case you think we’re picking on Facebook – Instagram’s copyright licence fares no better – but wait, Facebook owns Instagram, so…. yeah, that too.

Facebook has a choice – it can do better by the people who use its service, or it can watch their ‘products’ revolt as the votes roll in and our voices get louder and louder. Time will tell.

We see the Your voice page as an opportunity to start a conversation between online service providers and the people who power their products on a daily basis. The conversation didn’t end when we clicked ‘I Accept the Terms of Service’; it’s only just begun.

Take Action

If you want to add your voice to the conversation here’s what to do:

Select the ‘Take Action’ option when reviewing the latest terms on the Privacy page of the CitizenMe app. Cast your one-click vote if you think the term is ‘reasonable’ or ‘unreasonable’. Your vote will be added to the Your voice web page.

Let us know what you think of the new Your voice page. This is our first cut and we plan to roll out more detailed information if digital citizens want to see it – so please get in touch to share your thoughts: info@citizenme.com

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