7 Surprising Things Lurking In Online ‘Terms of Service’ Agreements

From Time Magazine:

When is the last time you actually read the “terms of service” agreement before you registered for a new website or downloaded a new app? For all many of us know, we could be signing our digital lives away when we hastily click “Agree.” (Just ask the “South Park” kids.) Below is a primer on a few of the individual rights you (usually unwittingly) give away when you sign up for some popular Internet services.

1. Your Photos May Be For Sale
Most photo-sharing apps and websites, such as Instagram, reserve the right to use, delete, modify or publicly display your photos. The Twitter-based photo-sharing program Twitpic goes a step further by granting these rights to Twitpic’s affiliates. In 2011 the company inked a deal to sell photos to the World Entertainment Celebrity News Network. That means if you go into paparazzi mode, snap an exclusive photo of Justin Bieber, and put it on Twitpic, the company can sell it without crediting or compensating you. Still, it’s a better deal than their old terms, which banned users from selling their own photos.

2. You May Not Be Able To Delete Your Account. Ever.
Skype is one of several web services that does not offer users the ability to delete their accounts. An FAQ on the site suggests that users delete all their personal information, but it’s not clear whether Skype retains this info internally. The blog platform WordPress also offers no way to delete your account.

3. Companies Can Track Your Web Activities—Even After You Leave Their Site
Facebook’s labyrinthine Data Use Policy notes that the company can place tracking codes called cookies in your browser to keep tabs on your Internet activity. Many sites on the Web actively use cookies, but the breadth and depth of Facebook’s data is noteworthy. If you’re logged into Facebook, the company tracks every website you visit that has a Facebook “Like” or “Share” button and ties it directly to your name and email address for 90 days, according to USA Today. Even if you’re logged out or don’t have a Facebook account, your digital travels are assigned an alphanumeric code that is still tied to your IP address. The company itself still isn’t sure what it’s going to do with this massive amount of data, but it’s actively looking for ways to monetize it.

4. Your Data Can Be Given to Law Enforcement Without Your Knowledge
While a few websites like LinkedIn have specific law enforcement guidelines, most tech companies don’t explicitly say what they’ll do with your digital data when the police come knocking. That’s because a lot of times, they’ll hand it over without notifying you. Cell phone carriers are among the worst when it comes to transparency in dealings with law enforcement, according to a study by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Neither AT&T nor Verizon promise to inform customers when their private data has been requested by government officials. Last year law enforcement officials made at least 1.3 million such requests from cell carriers, seeking text messages and even geolocation data. Apple and Amazon, among others, also have no policy to inform users when their info is subpoenaed.

Continue reading the rest of the story on Time Magazine