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ToS in a digitally social world

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Wow. I always had a hunch, but I have never really looked closely at the Terms of Service for some of the most well-known social software sites out there. I say wow because I now realize that my rights are not as protected as I (naively) thought.

One of the ETEC565 Toolkit exercises asks us to choose 4 social software sites and:

Read each TOS thoroughly, highlighting key language, and ascertain:

  1. Who “owns” materials posted by members?
  2. For what purposes can these materials be used?
  3. Would using each site be appropriate with your students?
  4. In your opinion, how well are the privacy interests of members represented?

I chose 4 that I either use often or have experimented with: Facebook, Second Life, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Out of the 4, I would say Twitter protects the privacy interests of its members the most. In fact, I feel quite confident now in using Twitter more for this reason.

Second Life comes in, well, second – a distant second. The ToS gives Linden Labs permission to use your content for promotional purposes, unless members – in writing – ask them not to. This is the same for Facebook and LinkedIn, although Facebook seems to be a little sketchier about the rights of its members. It seems that they try to get away from any responsibility for whatever backup, copied, remixed content of its members is still out there, giving them the go ahead to use that, too.

The main reason for these ToS is allow the companies to use whatever they seem fit for promotional purposes, which is not surprising. I mean: they are businesses. But what concerns me is the number of educators and students that may be using these services without realizing that their content is no longer 100% theirs. How much trouble could this cause down the road for schools, teachers and students? I wonder with some concern.

Written by seanmcminn

July 26th, 2009 at 8:49 pm

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