Your Privacy Death Sentence: What It Means When You “Agree” to the Terms of Use

terms of use privacy risks

“I have read and agree to the Terms of Use” is the biggest lie on the web.

More than 86 percent of people who regularly use the internet are taking active steps to improve their online privacy. But only 7 percent actually read the terms of use while downloading applications, extensions, or software.

No. Skipping the terms of use won’t kill anyone, but it does erode privacy.

By passing the terms of service and clicking agree, you often give an app or software the right to:

-collect all your data (device, location, searches),

-own your creative products and content,

-sell your data to third parties,

-use your data for advertising,

-disclose your personal information, and store your data even after account deletion.

We at StopAd found examples of these rights’ violations.

Over 96 Percent of Apps Tell You That They Collect Your Data

Are you OK with your app revising your private messages? Well, if you’re an Airbnb user—apparently, yes. You read its terms of service, didn’t you?

More than 90 percent of apps collect your data. At the most cases they store:
the type of device you’re using,

  • other identifiers (browser or operating system, IP address),
  • location information (which is derived from sources such as the device’s GPS
  • signal and information about nearby WiFi networks and cell towers), and
  • your activity—pages you’re visiting or types of app’s services you’re using.

Sometimes, they want more. Remember when the earlier Facebook Messenger asked a permission to use microphones to listen to conversations? Or when Path got fined $800,000 for sneakily collecting and spamming phone contacts?

Research found that 96 percent of apps requested email information, 92 percent request access to your address book, 84 percent needed location permission, 52 percent wanted access to the smartphone’s camera, and 32 percent request calendar permission.

terms of use violations

For example, Viber, as well as Uber, collect and store a copy of phone numbers and names of all your contacts (whether they’re Viber members or not). You supply Amazon with data about people to whom purchases have been shipped, including addresses and phone number; e-mail addresses of your friends. Uber receives some information regarding in-app calls or texts, including the date and time of the call or text, and the content of the text messages..

Moreover, apps gather information about you from third parties. In most cases, it’s data from your social accounts that you use for quick access to a service—Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin.
Sometimes it could contain a form of government identification—Airbnb, for example, requires your driver’s license or passport. Amazon requires your SNN.

Which popular apps are collecting your data? Google, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, and Instagram

Data Protections Tips for Lazybone’s Review of Terms of Use

  1. If you don’t want to read a full terms of use document, just pay attention to specific keywords: “collect”, “store,” “user data,” and “personal information”. Use the “cmd/ctrl + F” search feature.
  2. Look through exceptions in the terms of privacy. Sometimes apps openly disclose that they track you, but you can turn this feature off in its settings without deleting an app.

Hundreds of Apps Use Your Data for Advertising

Have you ever stumbled upon an ad that creeped you out, as if the advertiser could listen your thoughts? In fact, they do.
The latest research found 234 current Android applications incorporate an ultrasonic listening technology to offer you promotions when you visit particular stores. They ask permission to access your smartphone microphone, then listen for inaudible “beacons” that emanate from retail stores, advertisements, and even websites.
If you’re not paying attention to the permissions you grant, you could be feeding marketers information about what stores you go to and what products you like and dislike without ever realizing it. They also follow your digital footprints—interactions with this and other apps, pages you visit, groups and people you follow, as well as your public posts.
Viber uses WPS location data to provide location-based offerings to you from its service or third-party advertising. Airbnb shows ads based on your search, booking history, and preferences. Uber services may be made available or accessed in connection with third-party services and content (including advertising) that Uber does not control.

Which popular apps are using your data for advertising? Netflix, Airbnb, Viber, and Skype.

Advertising Data Tips for Lazybone’s Review of Terms of Use

  1. If you don’t want to read a full terms of use document, just pay attention to specific keywords: “promotion,” “adjust offer,” and “advertising.”
  2. Use the StopAd ad blocker to prevent advertisers from tracking you, and block all ads on all browsers and apps (e.g Skype, Facebook, YouTube).
  3. Check permissions and access you give to any app. Consider what exactly does that application require permission for? Access to your mic, camera, media files, bank account, etc.

A Full 70 Percent of Apps Tell You That They Sell Your Data

Apps often collect way more information than is necessary—to share and sell it.

This summer popular a iOS app, AccuWeather, was caught selling specific user geodata to a third-party company called RevealMobile.
Recently the mail-management service was heavily criticized when former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick mentioned that the ride-hailing company had bought data from, showing people’s use of the competing service Lyft. Turns out that’s terms of service are clear about selling data: “We may share personal information we collect with our parent company, other affiliated companies, and trusted business partners. We also will share personal information with service providers that perform services on our behalf.”
Similarly, Skype shares your personal data with Microsoft-controlled affiliates and subsidiaries; with vendors working on their behalf. Airbnb may share aggregated and non-personally identifiable information for industry and market analysis, demographic profiling, marketing and advertising, and other business purposes.

Which popular apps are sharing your data with third parties? Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify.

Tips for Third-Party Data Sales for Lazybone’s Review of Terms of Use

  1. If you don’t want to read a full terms of use document, just pay attention to specific keywords: “share”, “third parties,” and “partners.”
  2. Remove any apps you’re not using. Every app is a potential problem—the fewer you have, the safer you’ll be.

Some Apps Even Own Your Creative Products

“You own the rights to the content you create and post on Medium”— Medium Terms of Service.

You may not care if you post just your thoughts about cat- and dog-person differences or PR materials to promote your petcare company. But if you earn money for your creatives, you do care.

Sometimes, online services need your permission to perform certain tasks with your content. But in some cases they ask too much—your content can be exploited by others without asking you. For example, by posting content to Medium, you give the service a license to publish it on Medium Services or even use your content to promote Medium, including its products and content.

YouTube users grants the platform a worldwide, royalty-free license that that can be used without limitation for the promotion of the service, in any media format and through any media channel, provided it is in connection with Youtube, its successors and affiliates.

Similarly, Facebook has a (broad) license to use your work, but there is no copyright transfer and Facebook does not own your images in any way.

Which popular apps have a broad copyright license? Instagram, Tumblr, Medium, and YouTube.

Content Ownership Tips for Lazybone’s Review of Terms of Use

  1. If you don’t want to read a full terms of use document, just pay attention to specific keywords: “copyright,” “content rights,” “creatives,” “license,” and “intellectual property.”

Only 1 in 4 Apps Can Provide a Decent Level of Security

In 2014, the Starbucks app was found to be storing passwords, email address, and previous GPS information unencrypted, leaving it open for onlookers to exploit. Starbucks addressed this vulnerability shortly after it was discovered, but it is certainly not the only app to have had this issue.

Due to a high popularity of quick authorization with social accounts, apps can’t guarantee 100 percent security for the app. Therefore most apps like Airbnb, Viber, and Spotify, note that they are not liable for any unauthorized use of your account, but you may be liable if this unauthorized use causes losses.

Which apps could lack security? Netflix, Spotify, and Airbnb.

Security Tips for Lazybone’s Review of Terms of Use

  1. If you don’t want to read a full terms of use document, just pay attention to specific keywords: “security,” “encryption,” and “unauthorized.”
  2. Don’t install any apps without a terms of use document. According to a 2016 Future of Privacy Forum study, at least 24 percent of top apps still do not have a privacy policy.
  3. Third-party apps can compromise the security of your account. If you’re using social media for quick sign-in, be sure they’re totally secured.

Every App Saves Your Data After Deletion

After reading this article, you may want to delete some of your apps, right? But it can be a vain sacrifice. Just because you successfully delete an account doesn’t mean your digital data goes away entirely.

Some companies hold on to your data for 30 days, 90 days, or for an indeterminate amount of time. For example, Airbnb shows your name publicly, even after deleting the account. Youtube may retain, but not display, distribute or perform, services copies of your content that you have removed or deleted. In Instagram terms of use, you can find that following termination or deactivation of your account, Instagram and its affiliates may retain information (including your profile information) and user content for a commercially reasonable time for backup, archival, and/or audit purposes.

Netflix “cancels” your paid subscription, but still retains your account information. If you want to erase all credit card info you have to contact support. When you try to delete your Amazon account, you’ll be greeted with this.

Which popular apps are saving your data after deletion? WordPress, Skype, Evernote, Couchsurfing, Airbnb, and Instagram.

Account Deletion Tips for Lazybone’s Review of Terms of Use

  1. If you don’t want to read a full terms of use document, just pay attention to specific keywords: “deactivation,” “delete your account,” “backup,” and “archive.”. Use the “cmd/ctrl + F” search feature.
  2. When removing an app, be sure you’re completely removing it. Sometimes you also need to visit an app website (for example, to delete your account from there.

What we’ve learned is that, in most cases, privacy violations take place because we allow them—by visiting unsecured websites, clicking on malvertising, opening phishing emails and skipping the terms of use. To prevent privacy issues, you don’t need to spend a lot of time or resources, just use security and ad blocking apps and follow our simple tips.