If you are a bit skeptical about who can access your personal information on the Internet, then Google’s newest addition to their terms and services will not please you.
According to a New York Times article, Google announced its desire to make users’ personal information more readily available through its published advertisements. Google’s new advertisement policies, which boast the term “shared endorsements,” will take effect on Nov. 11.
This instance shows everyone using the Internet that they need to read the fine print before they sign anything. Think about how simple it is to create a new Google or Facebook account and add information to your profile, but now, it will be used on every website with Google ads.
The lesson: never agree to the terms of service unless you know exactly what they are.
The problem is that many people look at the terms of service, skip to the checkbox, and click next. If you were signing a lease for an apartment, would you skim the important information and check off that you agree?
This should never be the case, because most people who sign up for social networking websites do not know what they have agreed to, allowing companies to get away with potentially unethical practices.
One of these “fine print” details is the use of your personal information to advertise products to your peers or others on the Internet. Your picture, your name and any data you provide on profiles or emails can be accessed and utilized as a part of an advertisement campaign under the conditions that most refuse to read. The practice is unethical, but they explicitly warn every customer who eventually becomes a victim of this intrusive advertising.
Facebook has a similar policy in place to the one Google is planning to release next month, and it landed them in major trouble.
According to a Washington Post article from last month, they were forced to settle with several Facebook users as a part of a class action lawsuit. The plaintiffs claimed that Facebook was unauthorized to use certain pieces of information.
LinkedIn, the most popular professional social network, is also being accused of violating users’ privacy in a similar way.
You may think that these websites should emphasize privacy as a major concern, but the executives only have profit on their minds. In the New York Times article, Dr. Deborah C. Peel, the founder of the interest group Patient Privacy Rights, says, “People expect when they give information, it’s for a single use, the obvious one.”
That obvious reason to provide this personal information is for you and your friends’ pleasure. To avoid these breaches in trust, Internet executives and users must make changes.
Users should do their part by reading the terms and conditions of every website they sign up for. In turn, the website executives should make their terms and conditions readable for everyday people. Companies intentionally make their terms pages wordy, overwhelming and nearly impossible to read.
Once these two issues have been fixed, people will no longer be subject to the shady information sharing efforts that are so common with today’s social networking.
There would be no reason to complain because users know what is taking place, and because they have read the terms and checked the box, they gave them permission.
It’s just a matter of how willing you are to sacrifice privacy for the services these sites provide.