Beware of geeks bearing free online apps…is your privacy at risk?
If you’re like most folks, you stopped reading the “fine print” terms and conditions on free online appliactions like Google Apps, Windows Live, Zoho, and MySpace. I did too, until today. I caught an article on NetworkWorld.com today entitled “Privacy groups rip Google’s targeted advertising plan” that described how privacy advocates are concerned about Google’s foray into the world of behavioral targeting in its DoubleClick advertising business. So, that got me curious…what can Google (and others) do with your personal data, files, etc?
I did a quick check of four online appliactions that I use–Zoho, Windows Live, MySpace and Google Apps–here’s what I found.
- Windows Live had a different twist:
“Microsoft does not claim ownership of the materials you provide to Microsoft (including feedback and suggestions) or post, upload, input or submit to any Services or its associated services for review by the general public, or by the members of any public or private community, (each a “Submission” and collectively “Submissions”). However, by posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting (“Posting”) your Submission you are granting Microsoft, its affiliated companies and necessary sublicensees permission to use your Submission in connection with the operation of their Internet businesses (including, without limitation, all Microsoft Services), including, without limitation, the license rights to: copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, translate and reformat your Submission; to publish your name in connection with your Submission; and the right to sublicense such rights to any supplier of the Services.”
- MySpace pretty much mirrors Microsoft’s terms:
“After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain any such rights that you may have in your Content, subject to the limited license herein. By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the MySpace Services, you hereby grant to MySpace a limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on or through the MySpace Services, including without limitation distributing part or all of the MySpace Website in any media formats and through any media channels, except Content marked “private” will not be distributed outside the MySpace Website.”
So, what’s the moral to this story? Three things…
- Take the time to read the fine print; make yourself and others aware of the privacy and terms of service conditions for these and other (free or fee-based) online appliacations;
- If your federal, state or law enforcement agency, fusion center, or other government agency are using any of these services, make sure you have written policies about what can and cannot be posted, stored, or shared through these services; and
- Assume anything you do post or share will a) make its way outside of the United States and b) reused in some way for marketing or advertising purposes.
Play it safe; don’t assume your information posted to these services will remain private. Remember, once out, that privacy genie will be nearly impossible to get back in the bottle.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcomed…r/Chuck