Why Those Terms Of Service Are A Must Read

sign-40599_640When was the last time you actually stopped to read the Terms of Service (TOS) agreement for a web-based service you use? Every service has them, from Gmail to Paypal, from Alibaba to Zillow, and most of them are fairly mundane. Long-winded lessons in legalese that attempt to protect the company from lawsuits for just about every reason under the sun. Most people accept them without bothering to read, and who can blame them? They’re long, they’re boring, and they’re mostly incomprehensible. Sometimes, however, they also contain nasty poison pill clauses that may have side effects you did not intend. We’ll point out the worst of the offenders below. Steer clear of these, or think carefully before using their services.

#6 – Sourceforge

This one makes the list, but only just. It’s Sourceforge. You don’t’ post something there unless it’s open source, which is kind of the point. Nonetheless, everything you do post there becomes open source, which is explicitly spelled out in the site’s Terms of Service. I can’t imagine that anybody who would be using Sourceforge would expect or think anything differently, but it made the list just in case that took someone by surprise.

#5 – Facebook

Did you know that your name and likeness can appear in Facebook advertisements, and that the company doesn’t need to ask your permission, or even let you know? The exact wording of the TOS is that “You can use your privacy settings to limit how your name and profile picture may be associated with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. You give us permission to use your name and profile picture in connection with that content, subject to the limits you place.”

Remember too that when Facebook changes their privacy filters, they’re in the habit of resetting everybody to default, which is generally something close to full access. You’ve got to not only check your settings, but you’ve got to regularly go back and recheck them.

#4 MegaMega

MegaMega not only charges 10% interest on late payments, but built into their TOS is a clause that says you agree to pay their legal fees if they have to take you to court to get unpaid membership fees. At least they don’t ask for organ donations and several pints of blood too.

#3 Prezi

This quote from their TOS will leave your jaw on the floor. “With respect to Private User Content, you hereby do and shall grant Prezi…a worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully paid, sub-licensable, and transferable license to use, reproduce, modify, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, and otherwise exploit the content solely for purposes of providing you with the Service.” In other words, they can use your stuff.

#2 AWS (Amazon Web Services)

In their TOS they spell out quite clearly that they are not responsible for data loss. The thing is, if they’re the ones curating the data, they kind of need to be. This would make me opt to find someone else. I realize this is a popular service, but that’s a bit of a showstopper.

#1 Yahoo

Yahoo’s TOS borders on the insane. The others might make you raise a curious eyebrow, but Yahoo takes it to the next level. They not only reserve the right to rifle through your private communications at will, but they also reserve the right to rifle through the emails of anybody you communicate with via their email service, whether those people use Yahoo mail or not. And they make it your responsibility to let those you communicate with know about the Yahoo TOS that grants them this permission. These terms are absolutely draconian. If you have a Yahoo mail account, I’d recommend stopping its use for communication.


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