Why you should read Terms of Services and Privacy Policies

Like many others, I’ve gotten an “Orkut”:http://www.orkut.com/ invitation. Which makes me wonder: Don’t presumably sane people _read_ the Terms of Service when they sign up for a service? And do they at all bother to check out the privacy policy.


First off, let’s start with Orkut’s Terms of Service:
bq. By submitting, posting or displaying any Materials on or through the orkut.com service, you automatically grant to us a worldwide, non-exclusive, sublicenseable, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right to copy, distribute, create derivative works of, publicly perform and display such Materials.
I’ll leave to the lawyers to interpret the legal meaning of this – instead I’ll make my own, quick interpretation: Orkut wants to use any information I submit to the service in any way they please, including distributing it to third parties, or display it publicly. Such information may include, but is not limited to:
* Full name
* E-mail address
* Phone numbers
* IM[Instant Messenger] information
* Age/DoB
* Postal Address
* Relationship status / children.
* Sexual orientation
* Political view
* Religion
* Ethnicity
* Drinking habits/preferences
* Hobbies and interests
Other information that’s implicitly is collected is the relations you have/create within the Orkut network, e.g. who your friends are. These friends may also submit information revealing similar information about themselves.
Viewing the ToS alone, I would not feel too comfortable giving up this information. Under Norwegian law, any entity who wanted to collect this information would need a licence from the Norwegian “Data Inspectorate “:http://www.datatilsynet.no/ to collect and store this information – a permission they would very likely not receive (you really _do_ need a particularily good reason to collect information on amongst others an individuals ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and political orientation). But I digress, Orkut is a Californian business entity and is governed by Californian Law.
Orkut also have a “privacy policy”:http://www.orkut.com/privacy.html and there are quite a few snippets worth reading:
bq. We may share both personally identifiable information about you and aggregate usage information that we collect with Google, Inc. and agents of orkut in accordance to the terms and conditions of this Privacy Policy. We will never rent, sell, or share your personal information with any third party for marketing purposes without your express permission.
Ok, so orkut wants to share my personal information. For marketing purposes they will ask my permission, but what exactly are “agents of orkut” – and why is this passage of the privacy policy formulated in such a way that they may share any and all information about me, including ethnicity, religion, political views, with these “agents of orkut” without telling me, or asking explicit permission?
Further, orkut reserves the right to transfer any and all information about you to anywhere in the world:
bq. Personal information collected on this site may be stored and processed in the United States or any other country in which orkut.com or Google, Inc. or agents maintain facilities, and by using this site, you consent to any such transfer of information outside of your country.
I am still not a lawyer, but I’ll read my interpretation into this: While your initial agreement with orkut may be governed by US/Californian law, you agree that orkut may transfer your information to any country in the world, regardless of the legal system in that country.
To round it off, orkut does not even limit their right they have to use any and all information on the people who’ve voluntarily given up this information. They have a section in the privacy policy governing users that are invited to orkut, without having agreed to the ToS:
bq. If you invite another person to join orkut.com, we will ask for that person’s name and email address. We use this information to contact and, if necessary, remind that person that he or she has been invited to join orkut.com. All invitees are provided with the option not to receive further invitations from orkut.com. We may share other’s email information with our affiliate, Google Inc, or agents which are required to abide by this Privacy Policy. We also may disclose such information if required to do so in order to comply with valid legal process.
I won’t be accepting my orkut invitation anytime soon. Neither should you.
Related: digme:blogg: gratisprisen (Norwegian).

Previous Post

18 Comments

  1. It might be entirely by chance, but after orkut got hold of my job email address, spam volumes tripled (from previously maybe 1 message per week to three in a few days)…..
    Thanks for the heads-up!

  2. Why you should read Terms of Services and Privacy Policies

    Arve Bersvendsen: Why you should read Terms of Services and Privacy Policies (on orkut.com and others..)…

  3. Geir Thomas Nordskog

     /  2004-01-30

    The other thing about the privacy policy is this sentence:
    bq. We will never rent, sell, or share your personal information with any third party for marketing purposes without your express permission.
    What they are really saying is this: We can sell, rent or share yor p.i. without asking if we do it for other reasons than marketing purposes. Orkut may sell your info to i.e. classmates.com for statistical purposes. They can then legally sell it to [insert name of favorite spammer].
    I may be wrong, but I think I’m right. Long live spamgourmet.com!!!

  4. Of course, it’s entirely possible to NOT FILL OUT the forms asking for your sexual preferences, religious beliefs and what went wrong in your previous relationship and still explore Orkut. I agree that the terms of service are exaggerated but the assumption that forms must be filled out worries me more. Orkut doesn’t actually require anything except a name and email address.

  5. Quick Links, February 03

    CSS bar charts: Well known here at hebig.org, now taken to a new level XUL: Part 3 of Wolfgang’s…

  6. I know I’m paranoid

    I just had a look at the latest craze in the blogosphere, a social network site called Orkut and was pretty surprised by the amount of data they’re collecting. Especially the fields in the “professional” profile were kind of spooky. Given the kind of d…

  7. tina

     /  2004-02-08

    According to those privacy rules, not only your user profile and your friend connections, but also every idea, picture or text you’ve posted belongs to orkut and they have the right to sell it or make use of it. That’s something to think about. Even if you don’t fill in the forms, this passus makes participating in the orkut community virtually impossible.

  8. More on Orkut’s Privacy Policies

    >Arve Bersvendsen has digged a bit deeper into Orkut: Why you should read Ters of Services and Privaxy Policies….

  9. Maybe one should flood Orkut with Data. Why on earth should a system like this, get a realistic glimps on the world. Isn’t life already a pain in the neck when comes to advertising, merchandising and direct calls from agencies. Sometimes I wish to be the three monkeys at a time. Not to hear, see or say anything, just to take a break.

  10. Jon

     /  2004-02-08

    It’d be interesting to compare okurt’s ToS to the other social nets terms.

  11. Jon, comparing to “Friendster”:http://www.friendster.com/. Let’s begin with one snippet from Friendster’s “Terms of Service”:http://www.friendster.com/info/tos.jsp
    bq. By posting Content to any public area of Friendster, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to Friendster an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, fully paid, worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, and distribute such information and content and to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such information and content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing.
    This is no better or worse than Orkut’s terms. The Friendster “privacy policy”:http://www.friendster.com/info/tos.jsp however, is way ahead of the Orkut one. It opens with:
    bq. Friendster does not send Spam or sell email addresses.
    And further:
    bq. Except where you are expressly informed otherwise, we do not sell, rent, share, trade or give away any of your personal information unless required by law or for the protection of your membership.

  12. Orkut

    So, no blogging from the conference I mentioned earlier. Maybe I’ll write something about it later, maybe not. But now for something completely different: Orkut hit my social group heavily in the last days. I know, a bit late, but…

  13. Terms of Service

    There are some murmurs of concern and annoyance about the Terms of Service (TOS) of orkut.com, the latest craze in online social networking. Apparently you can make unreasonable demands on strangers, as long as it’s in the context of a…

  14. Nate

     /  2004-02-10

    Just consider Orkut as a web hosting provider that you don’t control, i.e. Geocities. Only put up info you would put up on the web. I gave no birthdate or info I wouldn’t mind posting to the web. However, I did make my email address only viewable by friends for when Orkut becomes public, spam would not be good.
    This is probably good enough to deal with the lousy terms of service.

  15. the neverending terms of service worries

    I bet the link to the Orkut terms of service and the link to the Register article slamming it — kudos to the Register — have been posted to Orkut communities about five hundred times. Most people’s take on it seems to be: give it as little info as po…

  16. Social network tools: Orkut, LinkedIn, and Friendster

    Social networking applications seem to be one of the recent.. well, let’s not call them fads; how about ‘hot topics’? I’ve only been involved in three of them, and they each have strengths and weaknesses. They’re probably evolving by learning from eac…

  17. Terms of Service that put you into service

    Exactly why you should read terms of service and privicy policies