Social software comparison

Facebook My Space
Location of terms http://www.facebook.com/terms.php?ref=pf http://www.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=misc.terms
Who “owns” materials posted by members? Members own material but give right to use it forever for no fee. Members own material but give right to use it forever for no fee.
For what purposes can these materials be used? Any purposes. Any purposes.
Would using each site be appropriate with your students? No, for a couple of reasons. First, the students will end up having to create profiles on this website, something which their parents may have forbidden. Second, it is too difficult to keep our group content private, since the license agreement of the content lets them use it for whatever they want. No, for a couple of reasons. First, the students will end up having to create profiles on this website, something which their parents may have forbidden. Second, it is too difficult to keep our group content private, since the license agreement of the content lets them use it for whatever they want.
In your opinion, how well are the privacy interests of members represented? Facebook has an exxcellent privacy policy, which they detail at: http://www.facebook.com/policy.php The most important part of this policy is that profiles can be set to private. My Space has a seriously improved privacy policy available at: http://www.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=misc.privacy
They have the same conditions as Facebook and private profiles, but are famous for the number of times they have been hacked and user information compromised.
Bebo Twitter
Who “owns” materials posted by members? Members own material but give right to use it forever for no fee. Members own material but give right to use it forever for no fee. Also, the terms and conditions describe a procedure with which to make a claim for copyright infringement.
For what purposes can these materials be used? Any purposes. Not listed.
Would using each site be appropriate with your students? No, for a couple of reasons. First, the students will end up having to create profiles on this website, something which their parents may have forbidden. Second, it is too difficult to keep our group content private, since the license agreement of the Bebo content lets them use it for whatever they want. Yes, because Twitter is fine with anonymous accounts, they do not require one to fill in your name. A friend of mine has used it successfully with younger students, where he signed up all of the students for accounts using pseudonyms like “risstudent1” and had control over the accounts.
In your opinion, how well are the privacy interests of members represented? Excellent privacy agreement available at http://www.bebo.com/Privacy2.jsp. Key points are the ability to set any part of your profile private, and can end membership at any time. Twitter has a well spelled out privacy policy, available at http://twitter.com/privacy.
It seems very comprehensive and also allows for users to set their updates and profile as private.

What did you discover?

As I expected, most of these social networking sites have terms of service which are designed to protect themselves and their younger clientele. A high school aged student who knew something about being careful online would be safe using any of these services, simply because they are designed at their heart to allow their users to choose what information they show. However students with less acumen may choose a poor setting for the privacy of their account, and end up giving near strangers too much information.

What surprised you?

I was a bit surprised to find that all of the language for the first three sites (Facebook, My Space, and Bebo) was exactly the same when it came to user generated content. The words “non-exclusive, fully-paid, royalty-free, sublicensable” were used by all three of the first sites. It seemed to me that they were all using some boiler-plate legal text. Maybe they all used the same law firm?

How would this inform your own participation in these social network sites?

I would be a little bit more likely to use these sites, but I have used at least the first two somewhat extensively and see little educational value in them. Too easy for students to wander off in the wrong direction. The only use I could see would be to subscribe all my students who were using Facebook (for example) to a group and then send them information via group emails. Pretty sure it would be more useful to set up my own system, and suspect the parents of my students would prefer that as well.

What are the implications for education?

The terms of service for these websites seem favourable for use in education, but I would be hesitant to do so. The only big reason I can see for using these particular websites is that they are frequently trafficked by our students. An reasonable analogy is that using a social networking website to connect with your students is like standing on a street corner preaching lessons to your students as they walk by or sit on their front steps. I just don’t think this is necessary, and really students deserve a break from school once in a while. I teach in the International Baccalaureate, and these students are so busy, they hardly get two moments to breathe, let alone have their personal online space invaded by school.

In terms of privacy, these websites do well, at least according to their privacy agreements. Most of these sites are aware that many of their customers are teenagers and that many countries have enacted laws to protect youngsters online. These websites need to comply with these laws, and so must have safe-guards in place. However, many of these safe-guards appear to be off by default, and this requires teenagers to be savvy users to turn them on so I think many teenagers are not properly protected. Hence, we should seriously consider whether or not is appropriate for schools to be advertising the use of these social networking sites.

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