Software terms of service and privacy policies explained
Authored by a Symantec employee
If you’re like most people, you don’t read the Terms of Service when you get a new app or buy a new device. That’s a big mistake, because a lot of apps on the market that are less-than-ideal, known as “grayware,” count on you allowing them access to your information. They know most people don’t read the Terms of Service, so their Terms of Service include language authorizing a massive invasion of your privacy. At the same time, you might have noticed that most Terms of Service is just boilerplate. How do you read the Terms of Service and find out what you need to know about privacy without wasting a bunch of time reading standard terminology?
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- The “security” section is also important, as it tells you what the company is doing to secure the data it obtains from you.
- “Access” and “onward transfer” clauses will explain who can access your data and who, if anyone and under what circumstances the data is shared with.
- An explicit list of what data is being collected from you. Companies generally have to collect some kind of data from you in order for their products to work. They should say exactly what data they are collecting.
- A list of who they are sharing your information with and why. The language here will generally be vague -- i.e., “third parties.” That’s fine, but under what circumstances do they share your data? Do they only share with companies that have security policies and under the course of normal business? If there aren’t any clauses explaining who these third parties are and when they share your data, that can be a huge red flag.
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to email customer service and start asking questions. Companies that are more reputable are more likely to answer your questions promptly.
The problem in a lot of cases isn’t that that company in question wants to do anything nefarious with your data. It’s just that they’re not taking your Internet security and privacy seriously enough. That can be just the kind of lax security that sets them -- and you -- up for a major breach.
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