On Privacy: Facebook vs. Google+

online_privacyFacebook’s biggest contender has just entered the ring, and if its rapid expansion is any indication, then it looks like Facebook will have to work extra hard to keep its users from flocking to the “Next Big Thing”. Google+ and Facebook are practically equal when it comes to their media sharing prowess, as well as in its features. Google has the advantage of being a bigger company with more resources, with special mention to its ownership of YouTube.com. And finally, Google+ is backed by the world’s most powerful search engine, while Facebook – recently partnered with Microsoft’s Bing for its social search.

So, what now, should Facebook users really begin a mass exodus to Google+?

Not so fast, hombre. Don’t pack your virtual suitcases just yet. Let me give you this age old warning: Read the Fine Print. You need to keep this piece of advice in mind when dealing with the devil, you need it when dealing with Facebook, and now you need it when dealing with Google+. Though, in this case, Facebook is undoubtedly the lesser evil.

Let’s take a look at their Terms of Usage as reference: (at least the bolded parts)


You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

  1. 1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
  2. 2. When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).
  3. 3. When you use an application, your content and information is shared with the application. We require applications to respect your privacy, and your agreement with that application will control how the application can use, store, and transfer that content and information.
  4. 4. When you publish content or information using the “everyone” setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).
  5. 5. We always appreciate your feedback or other suggestions about Facebook, but you understand that we may use them without any obligation to compensate you for them (just as you have no obligation to offer them).


11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.

11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.

Now, if that was simply too long and boring to read: here’s the gist of things:

Facebook at least allows you to control how your data is used, while Google+ makes no such provision. In Facebook, if you turn your privacy settings to maximum, Facebook won’t be able to use your data. Google+, on the other hand, practically gains all rights to use your data as it sees fit the moment you post it – and they have the right to modify and distribute it the way they want to. And here’s the icing on the cake: you’re also giving them permission to have your data available to companies, organizations, or individuals.

Have you started unpacking those virtual bags just yet? Mm-hm, thought so.

Furthermore, you can’t create an account unless you create a Google Profile – which is, by the way, searchable through Google’s search engine. In fact, if you create a Google+ account, anybody can search for you on Google, even if they’re not a member of the network themselves. They will be able to see your profile pic as well as your other basic information. You can’t block them, and the only way to keep them from seeing anything is to delete your content – that is, if Google hasn’t indexed your data yet.

In any case, Google+ is likely to become a playground for lawsuit-happy lawyers, just like Facebook. So folks, if Facebook is already getting on your nerves because of the liberties they take regarding your privacy, why join Google+ and gain another privacy headache? Hold off from joining Google+ for now and wait until the company learns how to respect its users. Google+ could have eclipsed Facebook if it offered its users more privacy and control, but it did the exact opposite. Their loyalty lies with the advertisers, and not with the users. So really, leaving Facebook to join Google+ would be like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

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