Read those boring Agreements and Statements!

Land sales contract. Sumerian clay tablet, ca. 2600 BC.
photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen
EULAs can force you to give away all of your data.
End-user license agreements (EULAs) and Privacy Statements: we all encounter them, either when installing a new program on our computers, when signing up for a service, or buying a product on the web. Few people read them from beginning to end . . . and that’s the source of an unethical credit-card scam that’s recently been uncovered by CNET. (Read the CNET article: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10293633-93.html?tag=untagged)
Buy.com states in their privacy statement, “We reserve the right to use or disclose your personally identifiable information for business reasons in whatever manner desired.” This includes your credit card data, which is outrageous, but is merely an extension of Gmail’s Terms Of Service, wherein Gmail users grant Google a license to copy and publish their data anywhere for any purpose. See my July 10 article, Latest round of the Google vs Microsoft fight.)
Buy.com then forwards your credit-card data, in exchange for a fee, to web-based companies with whom they have agreements, to allow them to debit your card without you having explicitly granted them that right.
This is at least unethical, if not illegal. The excuse offered by buy.com, google.com, and many other sites that capture your data for their profit, is that they explained what they could and would do with your data, and you agreed to it.
The moral: Read Privacy Statements and End User License Agreements!
I admit that if I were purchasing something from buy.com, I wouldn’t read the entire privacy statement. Who has time for that? Some websites take advantage of that: it appears that a company may do anything it pleases to its customers, just as long as it tells the customer first. Caveat Emptor!
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