There’s nothing stopping people from reading every last word of a Terms and Conditions (TC) Agreement when they download a new application or sign up for a website. But who actually does? Lawyers, maybe, and perhaps people who can spare a pretty huge portion of their day – or, of course, those conscientious people who are genuinely concerned about what they’re agreeing to and what it could mean for their privacy.
Usually a TC Agreement is so long, convoluted and filled with legal jargon that even if an average user did read one, they likely couldn’t fully understand the legal ramifications. By clicking “Agree”, a user has given their digital signature, one that is recognized by law as a binding contract. In other words, if you clicked it, you signed it, and there’s very little anyone can do to back out. How many times a week do you ‘agree’ to another set of terms and conditions? If you’re anything like the average consumer, you’ll agree to some set of Ts and Cs for new software installed or updated on almost a daily basis.
In case you’re one of those many people who typically skim the terms and conditions, we’ve gathered a list of ten more startling things a business you probably use every day – including iTunes, Facebook and Skype — has in its sticky TC Agreement.
10. Your Account Can’t Be Deleted
Even if you really, really wanted to, some websites and applications offer their users absolutely no way to completely delete their accounts short of hiring a lawyer and threatening swift legal action.
Why would they do that? 1) As long as your account still exists, you’re still in agreement with their terms and conditions, therefore remain legally bound by anything they have outlined; 2) Because you’re still entered into an agreement, they can keep all of your personal data virtually forever. Skype, for example, suggests users simply delete all of their personal information from their profiles rather than delete their accounts – but deleting it on your side doesn’t mean deleting it from the company database.
9. TC Agreements Can Change Anytime
Ts and Cs are not always set in stone. Companies make sure they can change anything about the agreement, any time they want. In other words, there’s no guarantee that what you agreed to in the past will be the same in the present.
Companies are required to notify users of changes or updates, but when the agreement is already so long and confusing to start with, it’s unlikely users will take the time to read through it a second, third, or even fourth time. There’s no need to ‘accept’ the new conditions – your original acceptance applies.
8. Companies Aren’t Responsible
“Products may be downloaded only once and cannot be replaced if lost for any reason. Once a Product is downloaded, it is your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage it, and Apple shall not be liable to you if you do so.”
You may remember your teacher in computer class telling you repeatedly to save your work. God forbid you spend hours working on a task, forget to save, and something with your computer goes wrong. If for any reason the computer or program crashes, your information is lost forever, and you’re back to square one.
Apple’s terms and conditions clearly state that they are not responsible for any lost file or product that you downloaded from them. In other words, if you don’t backup your costly downloads and suddenly lose them — even through no fault of your own — Apple can not and will not be held responsible. Sure, you can try suing them if the loss resulted in a huge financial deficit, but you wouldn’t get very far — after all, you did Agree to the terms.
7. You May Never Be Able to Sue
Even if you wanted to, many Ts and Cs may prohibit you from ever suing the company, no matter how justified your cause might be. It’s no surprise they do this to cover their own backs, just in case they compel someone to file a lawsuit.
Even if you did want to sue, many of these companies are financial giants who spend millions to employ the best contract lawyers in the world. Sort of like David vs. Goliath, but in the real world, David almost always loses.
6. You Pay For It, You Don’t Own It
“You agree that the Service, including but not limited to Products, graphics, user interface, audio clips, video clips [and] editorial content … contains proprietary information and material that is owned by Apple and/or its licensors, and is protected by applicable intellectual property and other laws, including but not limited to copyright.”
Millions of people purchase audio, video and other digital media from the iTunes store for their personal use or transfer. But what many people may not know is that purchasing the product doesn’t mean they own it. For example, if you purchase an HD movie on iTunes for $14.99 and download it to your computer, the contents of that movie is still the intellectual property of Apple or the movie’s producers.
5. Genius Knows What You’re Listening To
“When you use the Genius feature, Apple will use this information and the contents of your iTunes library, as well as other information, to give personalized recommendations to you.”
In order for the iTune’s Genuis feature to work, it must scan and analyze your songs, playlists and download history to determine your music interests and listening patterns. When it does, it will recommend new songs or downloads that you might like.
One way it does this is by recording your IP address — a unique number assigned by your internet router that determines your location, name and other personal information. Releasing this personal information might not to be too serious for most people, but many others would rather not have any application, including iTunes, know about their listening habits. Fortunately, this feature can be disabled.
4. You Might Be Tracked
Websites, phones and apps can track a user’s location for a variety of reasons from marketing to enhancing features that make the product function properly. Before they updated their software, earlier models of the iPhone and iPad kept a secret file that stored the geolocation of the device via wifi and mobile data collection. The file, called “consolidated.db”, was unencrypted, meaning that if hackers wanted to, they could access information about a user’s whereabouts.
Apple claimed that this was a bug in their new operating system, and said that the collection of location data was probably accidental. Even though the information could have been used to create better traffic maps, people were outraged that their personal location may have been collected, urging some to file a lawsuit.
3. Your Photos Might Be For Sale
There are literally millions — even billions — of photographs, images and videos on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media websites. As soon as you add them to the uploader and click submit, those images may no longer be completely your property. The content may be sold to third-party companies or websites to use for their own marketing and other business practises. This also applies to content that a user decides to delete from the website – this information may be stored internally.
2. Your Information Is For Sale
It’s not just your images that may be for sale. Your information such as name, friends, birthdays, phone numbers, email addresses and even habits and tastes can also be up for grabs to sell to third-party companies that can make all sorts of money with your information. Not only can your information be sold, but those Ts and Cs you agree to might also be giving a company the right not to notify you about who owns your information. Ever sign up for a website and receive a telemarketing call or unknown emails just a few days later? It may be because that website sold your contact information.
1. Secret Messages, Literally
TC agreements aren’t always gloom and doom. Many companies like Apple have inserted humorous hidden messages in the inner text. It’s hard to determine exactly why. Perhaps they want to lessen some of the drudgery of the legal jargon – or maybe they’re just testing us, to see how many of us actually get that far. Here are three of the most funny ones:
1. THE LEGAL AGREEMENTS SET OUT BELOW GOVERN YOUR USE OF THE ITUNES STORE, MAC APP STORE, APP STORE, IBOOKSTORE SERVICES AND ANYTHING ELSE WITH “I” IN FRONT OF IT. TO AGREE TO THESE TERMS, CLICK “AGREE.” IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THESE TERMS, ENJOY YOUR PC, MENNONITE.
2. Don’t reveal your Account information to anyone else – girlfriends, boyfriends, friends, grandmothers, dogs or wallabies. You are responsible for maintaining the secrets of your Account and for everything that happens with it. You agree to immediately notify Apple if someone breaks into your account – because we will break them.
3. Apple may only use this information and combine it with aggregated information from the iTunes libraries of other users who also opt in to this feature. In other words, people will also know you listen to Bananarama.