I was surprised by some questions from adults concerning data privacy while I was talking to students about internet safety and digital citizenship. Thus the inspiration for this post.
- Terms of Service
- Terms and Conditions
How often have you read them? I encourage you to read ALL terms of service agreements. Why? Who do you think those terms are meant to protect? (Hint: It isn’t you.)
Key point – If something is free, ask yourself why? How are they making money? Someone spent time and effort creating that app/website or setting up the “free” wi-fi you are about to use. People must eat, live, etc. Even if something is NOT completely free, they may decide to make more money off your data. Last year AT&T (DirecTV) changed their terms:
Keywords that jumped out at us: perpetual, irrevocable, transferable, modify, and publish. Here was the fun part. So I talked with customer service. Trying to explain to DirecTV why this was a problem was challenging. First, “irrevocable”. So if we agree, according to this, we cannot change our minds later.
Second, the section about modifying our profile and publishing it (which they insisted they don’t do). In theory, DirecTV could modify our profile to make it appear we watch shows we don’t watch. Why is this a problem? Years from now, we, or you, might want to run for public office. Ha ha. 😊 But seriously, they could increase the price of advertising by making it look like more people watch a show than are actually watching. The price of a Super Bowl ad is significantly more than other football games because of viewership numbers.
Web browsing and app information includes things like the websites you visit or mobile
apps you use, on or off our networks. It includes internet protocol addresses and URLs,
pixels, cookies and similar technologies, and identifiers such as advertising IDs and device
IDs. It can also include information about the time you spend on websites or apps, the links
or advertisements you see, search terms you enter, items identified in your online shopping
carts and other similar information.
Items in my online shopping cart? You mean DirecTV wants to know about the baby items I ordered as a gift to send me targeted advertising? No, thank you.
Next up, free apps! They need to make money so what are people giving up to use them? The best example I share with students is Snapchat. Do a quick search for some of the words mentioned above and check out section 3:
- perpetual? ✔
- irrevocable? ✔(irrevocably)
- transferable? ✔
- modify? ✔
- publish? ✔
Snap.com can delete your pictures or publish them without your permission. It is a jaw dropping moment for many.
Free games. I used to enjoy mindlessly playing Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery on my iPad until the terms changed:
“…pages you visit before, during, and after using the Services.” !!!!!!!
Another point to consider is how you log into websites. Some allow you to log in with your Google or Microsoft account. I noticed that the Microsoft permissions were less intrusive than the Google permissions. Often, there is a line that the app permissions include being able to “permanently delete” all your files. Recently that seems to have changed, but still something to watch for.
(If you’ve seen similar intrusive permissions, we’d love to know. Comment below.)
Something to consider from Tools and Weapons by Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne (#RecommendedRead):
Ethics should be taught in schools, and not just at the university level. Not everyone creating apps attends university and not all care about your privacy.
Another gem for keeping your information safe: Don’t make it so easy. If a website gives you the password reset question options for mother’s given name, pick your favorite cartoon character. They need to know that you know the answers to your security questions, but we fail to see why they need to know answers to questions that may be on credit card applications. Also from Tools and Weapons, hackers search emails for the word “password” which often contain your password.
And the next time you are prompted to change your password YET AGAIN and add special characters, respond with this link: Best practices for passwords updated after original author regrets his advice.
Speaking of passwords, after all that doom and gloom, here’s something that might make you smile: