Facebook, Your Information, and User Agreements

Facebook has certainly had its share of press lately. People seem shocked that the social media platform might be sharing their personal information. Jim Fossel in the Portland Press Herald comments; We Users are not the Customers, but the Products.  Hmmm, where have we heard that before? Even if you don’t use Facebook, according to this letter to the editor, you could still be affected.

You’ve heard that Facebook states that users give permission for their information to be shared. The truth is, we ALL do, and not just with Facebook.

Microsoft, particularly with cloud based services including Office 365 and Cortana recently notified users of an update in its Microsoft Services Agreement. If one were to truly read every word of the agreement, it would take a few hours. Almost every section has at least one additional link to ‘learn more’. After one hour of navigating around, this author was less than 25% through the content and had no less than 6 separate browser tabs filled with legalese to read. Whether you choose to read the entire document, as long as you continue to use any of the MS services that the document addresses, you are automatically bound to the agreement terms. The one thing that really stands out amidst all of Microsoft’s privacy and security statements;  “Please note that some of our products include links to products of third parties whose privacy practices differ from Microsoft’s. If you provide personal data to any of those products, your data is governed by their privacy statements.”

facebook and bixbySamsung Galaxy Bixby is a personal assistant on certain smartphones. Should you choose to use Bixby you are prompted to agree to terms of 4 different agreements; Samsung Terms and Conditions, Samsung Privacy Policy, Bixby Privacy Policy, and User Content Providers for Bixby Features.

Clicking these from your phone gets you to the policies. In the case of User Content Providers, currently included are Inrix, Foursquare, and Uber and each has its own Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy, and Bixby shares your information with all of them. The Bixby: U.S. Privacy Notice alone is 1,500 words long with numerous links for ‘more information’.

The Facebook Privacy and Data Policy is not much different than the others. According to the Facebook Companies page, “In addition to the services offered by Facebook Inc. and Facebook Ireland Ltd, Facebook owns and operates each of the companies listed below, in accordance with their respective terms of service and privacy policies. We may share information about you within our family of companies to facilitate, support and integrate their activities and improve our services. For more information on the Facebook Companies’ privacy practices and how they treat individuals’ information, please visit the following links:

“By clicking Create Account, you agree to our Terms and that you have read our Data Policy, including our Cookie Use. You may receive SMS Notifications from Facebook and can opt out at any time.”

The bottom line: this is the world we live in.

Even if you manage to remove your entire footprint from all social media, there’s cloud based software, smart phone apps, and an ever growing Internet of Things to contend with. It’s almost impossible not to encounter at least one user agreement, and in a few years there will be NO avoiding this level of connectivity.

For your own safety and security, don’t just click the little “I Agree “ box; read the policies and make sure you understand as best you can what these providers can do with your information. Learn how to use their internal controls to help limit your exposure, and at the very least be diligent about secure passwords for all of the apps and social media you access.