You download an app onto your phone or computer. A frame comes up outlining terms and conditions, and you immediately tick the accept box. We’ve all done it – who wants to spend time reading a long, boring section of text loaded with legal terms? Here’s why you should read before you click.
A 2017 study by Deloitte found that over 90% of mobile phone users accept legal terms and conditions without reading them. The rate is even higher among young people, with 97% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 agreeing to conditions without browsing through them. Certain apps may take advantage of this, including some terms and conditions that push legal and ethical boundaries.
Apps may be able to use your personal information
While you won’t exactly be signing away your life by clicking that accept box, there may be some terms and conditions that give apps the right to use your personal information for their own purposes. Amongst the terms and conditions of WhatsApp, for instance, is a section stating that the app has the right to share information (such as your phone number and browsing habits) with other companies within the Facebook group. These companies can then use this information for purposes such as targeted advertising.
You may be granting apps permission to use your content
If you’re planning to use an app to upload content such as photographs, written work, or artwork, then you need to be aware of what the app can do with this content. For example, did you know that when you upload content such as photos and videos to Facebook, you are granting Facebook a licence to distribute, modify, and publicly display this content? Facebook’s terms of service also stipulate that your content can be stored, copied, and shared with other parties such as service providers.
You may not be notified of changes in terms and conditions
A surprisingly high number of apps (including WhatsApp, Skype, YouTube, and apps from Apple) state in their terms and conditions that those very same terms and conditions can be changed at any time, with no obligation to notify the user. This means that you may be accepting a set of terms and conditions one day, and be bound by a completely different set of terms and conditions the next. These apps leave the responsibility on you to check the terms and conditions for any changes, so ensure that you do this regularly.
You may be breaking the law without realising it
In their terms of service, most apps highlight the legal purposes for which the app can be used. They will also list the purposes that are illegal, such as sending malicious content, impersonating other people, promoting violence, or publishing misleading statements. If you aren’t aware of which purposes are acceptable and which aren’t, then you could be opening yourself up to legal action when you carry out an action that isn’t permitted. Since you clicked that accept box, the argument that “I wasn’t aware that what I was doing was wrong” won’t stand up in any court.
Next time you download an app, consider taking the time to read the terms and conditions – it could save you from some nasty surprises!
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