How many times have you clicked “I Accept” to the terms and conditions on a website without reading the contractual small print?
Now, Dr Sal Humphreys -- an Internet communities expert from Queensland University of Technology in Australia -- warns you could be allowing online companies to install spyware onto your computer or use your personal photographs for commercial purposes.
Dr Humphreys said many people may unknowingly sign away their privacy and intellectual property (IP) rights.
“By blindly accepting the terms and conditions, which are legal contracts, people may be agreeing to things they would normally consider unacceptable,” she said. “People tend to ignore the contracts they have ‘accepted’ until something goes awry.”
Humphreys stressed that the world is changing from a society regulated by governments to a society, which is controlled by corporations that run for a profit.
As an example, she cited the Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) World of Warcraft (WoW), which is played by millions of people around the world.
“The WoW contract states that the developer can access the user’s computer and is allowed to install spyware onto the hard drive to track what they do,” she said.
“The developer claims the spyware, which must be installed for the game to work, helps to detect cheating and black-market selling of ingame currency, but there is privacy breaches that the players may have unknowingly agreed to that are a cause for concern.”
Humphreys said many online publishers encourage players to create their own content, but their contracts state that anything created in the game or posted on a company’s website becomes the property of the publishers.
“The current terms and conditions for Facebook state that all user content posted on the site could be used by the company for purposes including advertising, and may be retained in archives, even after the user has deleted it from their profile,” she said.
Dr Humphreys said online corporations were often not accountable for their treatment of users.
“The Second Life contract states that users own the IP rights to their in-world creations, but they could still be kicked out of the game for no reason, and if they own a lot of virtual property that is worth a lot of real-life money, they could lose it all with very few mechanisms for appeal,” she said.
Credits : Indiatimes IT Column