Facebook Bans Source Code Extraction In Proposed Governance Changes

Facebook has proposed several changes to its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and is asking the public for feedback until March 22nd. The most important changes are the prohibition of extracting source code from its downloadable software, and a clear explanation that friends can share your information through applications. The changes are necessary since Facebook released its first download “Messenger For Windows” this month, and because it has come under greater scrutiny from government privacy offices.

You can see the full track changes version of the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities below and go here to leave your comments. The changes aren’t very controversial, but if they receive enough comments, Facebook will open them to a vote.

Along with giving it the right to delete the accounts of users who meddle with its software, Facebook wants its documents to note that it may automatically provide updates:

13. Special Provisions Applicable to Software

  • 1.1 If you download our software, such as a stand alone software product or a browser plugin, you agree that from time to time, the software may download upgrades, updates and additional features from us in order to improve, enhance and further develop the software.
  • 1.2. You will not modify, create derivative works of, decompile, or reverse engineer or otherwise attempt to extract source code from us, unless you are expressly permitted to do so under an open source license or we give you express written permission.

The rest of the changes focus on updating language so the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities is consistent between Facebook’s data usage policy, including changing “hateful content” to “hatespeech”, including social plugins in the provisions that apply to offsite sharing buttons, and clarifying that friends can share your data with third-party applications.

Over the past few months Facebook has undergone privacy audits and evaluations by the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. Over the years, one complaint has been that users aren’t aware that their private information can be shared with apps by friends.

While there’s no change to how that sharing happens, today’s proposal adds the bold text that follows to the governance statement: “When you or others who can see your content and information use an application, your content and information is shared with the application.” Facebook is responsible to the Irish Data Protection Commisioner for exploring alternative privacy controls for this type of sharing by July 2012.