back to article Britain's MPs ask Twitter, Facebook to keep Ts&Cs simple

UK politicos have called upon social media firms to simplify their privacy policies and come clean about how they use customers' personal data. The Science and Technology Committee has concluded an inquiry into the terms and conditions users agree to when they sign up for accounts with sites like Twitter or Facebook. It has …

  1. phil dude

    new T&Cs...

    We ownz all ur stuff...


    1. edge_e

      Re: new T&Cs...

      Even put like that, I'm sure there would be a significant number who would be surprised to find out that the site could use their information in any way it liked.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: new T&Cs...

      We ownz all ur stuff...

      Sadly, this is actually the reality with quite a few services.

      Here is a real example, with some details highlighted:

      When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our services, you give us (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our services (for example, for a business listing you have added to our service). Some services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that service. Also, in some of our services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our services.

      I deliberately left out company details, but it's not going to be hard to work out whose T&Cs they are - I use this when presenting to company directors who tend to immediately agree that they would never use a provider seeking those terms. It's interesting to see what happens when I then tell them they HAVE already agreed to those terms and ARE using them..

      What is relevant is that the conditions that grant the operator the rights to your content (aka intellectual property) for free are hard and well defined, whereas the limitations that they appear to impose on themselves are soft and pretty much meaningless. Also observe how hard they work at avoiding the words "in perpetuity"..

      The first rule of contracts applies here too: the first part giveth, the last part taketh away.

      1. Dave Bell

        Re: new T&Cs...

        Those licencing terms are partly due to the way the internet works, and existing IP law was never written with the internet in mind. Everything we post over the internet is copied. Changing a piece of text from ASCII to Unicode is a modification of the original. So is using a different font to display it.

        I am not holding my breath wating for the politicians to some up with some legal structure that reflects the practical needs of the the internet. Just getting this message in front of your eyes could involve 5 or 6 legally distinct entities copying and modifying my copyrighted material.

        At least this T&C text tries to limit the blanket rights grab to what is necessary for the service to work. It doesn't do that good a job, but it tries.

        At the end of the day, there are few lawyers who know how the technology works, and the chances are that none of them worked on those T&Cs. I do know a couple of specialised barristers who work on this sort of technical issue, and while in the English legal system a barrister isn't limited to court work, it's questionable whether in-house corporate legal teams are as competent as they pretend to their employers.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Read the T&Cs, you wouldn't believe what the greedy sods ask for!

    I DO read the T&C's on sites, I shoot photos and the one thing the greedy bastards want is free media. The T&Cs for the National Geographic public photo gallery for example, allows them to use your images, for free, worldwide without any need to consult you. They can also let your images be used by third-parties, again without your permission. There are many sites that simply put these blanket media grabbing terms in so they get free usages of users content without giving a penny back to the creators.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Read the T&Cs, you wouldn't believe what the greedy sods ask for!

      Its interesting that the only amateur photo competitions left in the UK are essentially poorly disguised rights grabs with rather derisory prizes. My father in law in Germany, on the other hand, seems to be continually entering well thought out competitions, with decent prizes, and rarely any more rights requested than to use the entered pictures to display in context with the competition.

  3. Khaptain Silver badge

    Only one word is necessary


    There is a reason that those T&Cs are written in legalese and it's all about moving responsibility from the company to the user when the inevitable shit hits the fan. In other words they are simply protecting their own interests.

  4. Tom Wood

    Ah, the "all good bookshops" trap

    "Socially responsible companies wouldn’t want to bamboozle their users, of course, so we are sure most social media developers will be happy to sign up to the new guideline"

  5. ratfox

    If they want clear privacy conditions…

    They have to write it themselves. The point of T&Cs is not to inform users; they are written for the express purpose of making sure that the company can never be sued for anything. The people writing them work very hard to not include anything that would explicitly limit the freedom of their employer.

    The only way this can change is if governments write a privacy code making clear what is allowed and what is forbidden. Until then, it's purely and simply a matter of who you trust.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If they want clear privacy conditions…

      Governments HAVE written privacy codes - what do you think Data Protection laws are all about? The problem is that web businesses tend to abuse the fact that they deal with multiple jurisdictions to avoid exposure to any privacy laws in much the same way as they use it to avoid paying tax.

      As long as they are getting away with that nothing will change, because end users typically do not care one iota. They make a lot of noise and ginormous amounts of waling can be heard when policies are changed, but all wait for "the government" to do something instead of doing the very one thing themselves that CAN make a difference: stop using the service.

      These companies need the volume to make profit. Reducing the volume will reduce profit, and so creates the only message that will actually work. Bleating about your rights, not so much.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No thanks

    A government created privacy kitemark? No thanks. You couldn't possibly trust anything that would actually meet the approval of any of the parties or business organisations, and the ICO is nothing more than a figure of fun to be wheeled out to entertain and annoy us in equal measure.

    Perhaps they could fund the beer/bacon sarnie budget for a fact finding committee of our esteemed and especially tinfoil hatted fellow commentards, run a poll late one Friday and have parliament rubber stamp the result into law.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No thanks

      A government created privacy kitemark?

      I'd call it a shitemark, but that wouldn't be polite so I won't :)

  7. John Tserkezis

    Had one site where the T&Cs where buried deep into the online application.

    Should you prove to be a dick and actually read them, it'll take so long, it times out your application.

    So, you start again, from the begining, going though the application once again, with all the fields cleared (for security reasons you understand - ironically, since after reading the T&Cs, you realise you have no security at all).

  8. graeme leggett Silver badge

    Existing standards

    to make documents - such as T&Cs - clear to the reader; the plain English campaign Crystal Mark.

    though I find Microsoft Limited, Nominet, and Samsung are already listed

  9. Medixstiff

    Thanks for the Monday morning laugh

    I've always said the "I agree" button should be changed to "I have no choice"

    It's like around the 2000 mark members of the Perth Linux user group tried to hand their copies of Windows back for a refund because they did not agree with the M$ EULA. Now this is second hand info but I believe it went to court and the judge essentially laughed at them because the law stated a PC had to be "sold" with an OS and them supplying Linux didn't count. So disagreeing with the EULA meant SFA in the scheme of things.

  10. Sirius Lee

    Pot, meet kettle

    This from the people who give the tax rules and the laws (with reams of small print) that result in lengthy and difficult-to-comprehend Ts & Cs. Parliamentarians, you can resolve this one.

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