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Be careful with what you accept in the terms & conditions on a website

Facebook, Google, and mobile or web applications can use your data and information at will, and you can not do anything to stop them

Person holding a cell phone with the terms and conditions of the Facebook mobile application

Person holding a cell phone with the terms and conditions of Facebook's mobile app/ Reference Image / Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

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After just a few days ago, when the privacy abuses of some social media such as Facebook or even by large technology companies like Google are becoming public, we realized the importance that these 'terms and conditions' we always ignore may have.

Leer en español: Cuidado con lo que aceptas en los términos & condiciones en la web

When we create an account in a social network or an app, or sign in for the first time, we must accept some clauses of the company. Normally, let's not lie to ourselves, we simply accept them without thinking about what they mean. Surely we would still accept those terms, because if we don't, we simply may not use the product or service. Even so, after some time we begin to wonder why advertising on a topic you spoke about in some personal conversation pops up, for example.

Since we began to become aware of that, we have begun to understand that maybe companies know more about us than we think. And no, not only from the publications that we make or the information that we leave available for our contacts. The truth is that, if they wanted, they could get as much information as possible.

According to an article published in the Chilean Journal of Law and Technology of the University of Chile, the acceptance of a contract, usually called 'terms and conditions', usually authorizes websites to use your personal data.

What am I accepting?

These contracts we ignore tend to be different in each social network, platform or app, but in general they are about copyright, the appropriate uses and the monetary cost of using them.

For example, Google proposes that all the content that you upload, send or receive will always be yours, that is, you will have the copyright. A relief, perhaps, but let me tell you more. If you send content from other media to their services (for example, send an email from the Apple app to a Gmail email), the company may reproduce or create derivative works of your files. But don't worry, the authorship will remain yours.

"When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (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," one read in the 'Your content in our services' section of the Google's T&C.

At first glance, we might not mind this, because what can I have that Google would like to use? Well, let me tell you a little bit more.

Your personal data and others that you may not care about could also in danger without you even realizing it. For example, when you sign up in an app that asks you to let them "access other applications," you are allowing the original apps to get information from the other apps. Location, age, language, gender, educational level, income, type of housing, birthdays, photos and videos are some of the data that could be obtained and used for any purpose the company may have.

A discourse about privacy

Following these questions, which increasingly make web and mobile services untrustworthy, companies like Facebook have said publicly that they will on their users' privacy. However, people trust them less and less. This is because every day there are news about how some platform breaks privacy rules to spy on their users (although they refer to it as getting to know him or her better).

Just in July, many privacy abuse scandals have been known.

You may be interested: Facebook and the vicious circle of algorithms

First, it was known that the US would fine Facebook for US$ 5 billion for previous violations of its users' privacy. This data leak questioned the functioning of Cambridge Analytica and cost the tech giant the highest fine in the technology industry.

Another news that was known was that Google admitted on July 11 that 'language experts' were dedicated to hearing at least 0.2% of the conversations through devices' microphones. This was made, they said, in order to provide a more appropriate experience for each user and improve the service.

This proves to be another proof that tech giants know more about us than we can imagine. Thus, intelligent assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google assistant not only help users to make their life easier, but also store all the information about the person; not only what you have on cell phones, but also what they get through microphones.

The last case was known after what happened with FaceApp, which was a tendency in social media when people began publishing their photo looking like an old person. After two or three days being a tendency, it went public that this app, which exists since 2017, has a somewhat ambiguous scheme on data protection.

"This whole business model is collecting massive amounts of personal data without any idea of how it could be used in the future," Australian expert on Cybercrime Stilgherrian told ABC.

When we accept that contract that we usually ignore, we allow the app to use photos and other information in any way the company wishes to "without any compensation for the user", according to the T & C. Moreover, they add that they can be used regardless of the amount of information that exists. That is, it does not matter if the data provided is enough to get the user's full identity, they can still use it.

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