Many people aren’t aware that when using different services online the data they produce may not in fact be theirs. Several years ago I did an article on this subject. But this week the topic was one of the most talked about because of Facebook. Since the uproar some changes have been made to the Facebook terms of service ( TOS ) that seem to have quieted the debate for now. Unfortunately the conversation keeps coming back up but with little real world results. There are still many online companies and services that lay claim to your data in their terms of service agreements. The reality is that very few of us have ever taken the time to actually read these.
When is the last time you read a TOS? If you took the time, did you understand any of what was included within this legal document? In almost all cases you would need a law degree to know what you were actually agreeing to when you click the accept button. Of course the choice is accept the terms of service or don’t use the product. For years companies have included terms within a TOS that might not even be legal. There have been a few court cases dealing with those instances.
I’ve never really ran into issues with anyone trying to take ownership of my content. There could be many reasons for this. But lets just skip that. What I have seen is aggravation when trying to move from one blogging service to another. The concept of data being held hostage is something that is far from new. Google recently authored a free service that claims to resolve the headaches of moving from one blogging platform to another.
Even when using an open source application you still might not be free of data ownership issues. In reality what is to stop a web host from trying to claim that using their service gives them some type of license over your content? Not that it would be worthwhile to that host in almost all cases. And yes there are laws in place that supposedly protect you from this type of situation. But in the end for most people it would be cheaper to just start over elsewhere than to get involved in a long drawn out legal battle.
The truth of the matter is that customers of online services don’t have the protections they should. Yes mass uproars online can sometimes have the desired effect. If enough customers yell loud enough and the right news sites grab hold of the story some change may occur. But after these customers get what they want the conversation goes back into the lesser read regions of the Internet. To only come back into the spotlight when another online company upsets it’s user base.
It should be kept in mind that what you think is yours online might not be. If there is a way to back this content up you should do so on a fairly regular basis. This leads into something else I read the other day. Every time Microsoft comes out with a new operating system there are claims that the company is planning a new digital rights management scheme that will lock you out of using your data. I’ve yet to see a case where this has become reality. Although in my previous article I detailed my experience where I felt security settings might be keeping my data hostage. I’ve never retrieve those photos from that hard drive to this day. I’m think the drive itself may actually have an issue if I’m remembering right. So my original thought in the older article may not be completely valid.
No matter the cause in that case. The article does show how hardware and software manufacturers could enable settings to lock you out of accessing your data. Similar to how online services can hold your data hostage from moving to another service. Do to using a proprietary system that makes it hard for you to transfer data to the competition.
It has always seemed to me that the law favors the service provider more than the customer online. It is easy for an online service to lay claim to your data when using their product. The reverse of that is not so easy. You can’t take ownership of your content and data. With a growing need for companies to monetize their customer base. I think we will see more stories related to services trying to manipulate user content for profit.