Skipping the Terms of Use? Here’s Why You Need to Stop

91% of consumers do not read online services’ Terms of Use or Privacy Policy. And even if they do, chances are they won’t fully understand all the legal terms that stretch for pages.

 

According to Kevin Litman-Navarro, before the enactment of the GDPR law, it took 30 minutes to read Google’s Privacy Policy. Meanwhile, Airbnb’s Privacy Policy is still too baffling to be understood by non-professionals.

 

While you may find reading these agreements a huge waste of time, companies can use your laziness to their advantage. In fact, the wordy, jargon-laden, hard-to-locate pieces of text often conceal details of data privacy threats as well as  ways to avoid them.

 

In this article, we’ll provide you with the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and EULA definitions, walk you through the main data privacy risks, and show you the most effective ways to eliminate them.

EULA vs. Terms of Use vs. Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy is an agreement used by companies to inform users about personal data collection and usage. This agreement is mandatory for all companies collecting user information.

 

Terms of Use (TOU), aka Terms and Conditions or Terms of Service, informs users about the terms, conditions, and requirements associated with the use of a particular website or application [5]. TOU is not mandatory by law.

 

While you might distinguish between a Privacy Policy and TOU, you may still wonder: “What is EULA?” EULA (End User License Agreement) specifies the rights and restrictions which apply to the use of the software.

Data privacy threats and solutions

Online activity puts your privacy at risk. Here are a few typical data privacy threats and the best ways to avoid most of them by using user agreements provisions.

Data collection

At first glance, you might not be concerned when a weather app collects your location data or when Google requests access to your contact list to sync it with some of your online profiles. However, many companies tend to collect information that has little to do with their core services.

 

Here are just a few examples, although many more businesses can harvest similar data about you.

 

  • Airbnb: In its Privacy Policy (as of November 1, 2019), the company says it collects your device data (including hardware and software information) when you access and use the Airbnb Platform, even if you have not created an Airbnb Account or logged in.
  • Starbucks: The coffee company claims (as of January 1, 2020) it can collect information about the web pages you view, including the date and time you viewed them.
  • Twitter: The social media platform’s Privacy Policy (as of January 1, 2020) mentions the company may collect your current precise position.

 

Solution: According to GDPR law [10], companies must provide ways for users to remove their personal data and transfer it to a new service. That said, if you are not comfortable with a company’s Privacy Policy, you can download your data, review it, and see if you want to take it to a new product. If not, you may delete your account with all personal information.

 

The problem is the law doesn’t apply to users outside of the European Union. But since online boundaries are more obscure, it is always worth consulting the Privacy Policy to double-check this information.

Data brokerage

“Providing the best user experiences” is just one reason why websites and applications go to great lengths to acquire as much personal data as possible.

 

Many share it with third parties, which are often data brokers (entities that collect user data and sell it to other data brokers, companies, or individuals). Data brokers fall into three types:

 

  • Marketing specialists: They typically divide consumers into categories based on age, gender, ethnicity, location, device type, etc. Other companies purchase this information to tailor marketing campaigns to their target audiences.
  • People search sites: Here you can input a person’s name and receive personal data  about them. This information can include addresses, aliases, education, employment details, marriage information, bankruptcy, interests, etc. Such resources can be used for doxing (the practice of broadcasting private information about an individual or organization).
  • Risk mitigation specialists: They are particularly useful in detecting fraud and the least troublesome to internet users unless the information is inaccurate. For example, if your address happens to match that of a criminal or a deceased person, you might fail to complete a transaction.

 

Solution: Some companies are transparent about sharing users’ personal information with third parties. For example, Twitter users can review advertisers who served them tailored ads based on their personal information. Facebook lets you make choices over the personal data used to select ads for you.

Data leakage

Companies collecting massive amounts of information are often subject to security breaches, especially those using the HTTP web communication standard. Unlike the more robust HTTPS, HTTP lacks the encrypted connection between the recipient device and the website. This means that data “traveling” between them can be easily intercepted by cybercriminals.

 

Solution: Always try to use websites with the HTTPS web communication standard, install reliable cyber-security software, and read user agreements to learn which measures they take to make your web experience safe.

Conclusion

Our online data is never 100% safe. Interactions with websites and applications pose threats associated with data collection, brokerage, and even data leakage. Sadly, only some know about these risks, and even less know how to avoid them. To this end, before you consent to any user agreement, we highly recommend reading it to familiarize yourself with the provisions on cybersecurity, data collection and disclosure, as well as the all-important ways to opt-out.

 

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We hope our Internet safety rules will help you enjoy your digital life without fear of any data breaches. Now you know more on how to stay safe online, find out more about what we call “The Internet of Us”.

 

Meanwhile, at Clario we’re hard at work on creating a first-class tech solution for your digital safety, combined with expert human support on call 24/7. We’re eager to help and support you, so stay tuned for more updates!

 

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