- What is a user agreement and how can they differ?
So what are these documents, why are you asked to agree to them and do you really need to read them word-by-word? Here we’ll give you a few tips on the key things to look out for, so you save your valuable time and can skim through to the most important parts.
What is a user agreement and how can they differ?
In simple terms, a user agreement is a formal agreement made between the owner of a piece of software, such as an app or website, and the end user—that’s probably you! That gives you the right to use the software or service, and it gives the business owner protection against misuse as well as a legal right to collect information about you.
Let’s find out more. So what kind of agreements are there?
- EULA (End User License Agreement) gives a user the right to download a certain app (a copy of the software), provides rules for its use, explains copyright protection, and so on .
Boring as they seem, user agreements exist for a reason. It is basically the only way to understand what happens to your personal information and decide whether you’re OK with it. Why is that important?
- Free services are paid with your personal data
For many digital businesses, collecting and selling your personal information is their primary way to make money. They provide details of your online activities, preferences, and location to advertisers and get paid for that data. In turn, advertisers become able to show you personalized and more efficient ads. Privacy policies explain what types of your personal details are collected and shared this way.
- Data breaches happen
- Your consent is legally binding
As we’ve discussed, the issue with long and unreadable user agreements is something we need to tackle, as we all need to understand what we consent to when we click “I agree”. Luckily some clever people out there have created automated solutions to help users quickly understand what they are dealing with. Here are a few of those:
- Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (ToS;DR)
What is really clever, is that the creators of ToS;DR created extensions for all the popular browsers. That means, whenever you visit a website that is in the service’s database, you can click on the extension icon and see a review of its terms. You can get this extension on tosdr.org .
This service provides AI-powered summaries of various Privacy Policies. If you head over to pribot.org/polisis, you can choose a policy out of a large database and see what user information a certain company collects and what it does with the data.
It might be interesting to note that Google collects user location data. Why do they do that? According to this chart, the company uses it for basic and additional service features, analytics research, personalization, and other purposes, but not for advertising. Similarly, we can examine other data collection and use.
This service is also available as an extension for Chrome and Firefox browsers. It helps you quickly check out the pros and cons of a certain website’s policy. In case you’re still puzzled, there’s a chatbot called PriBot designed to answer questions on Privacy Policies .
AI-based solutions are great but still not perfect. There’s always a possibility of a mistake. A certain document can be updated or moved within a website and a robot may not be able to analyze the latest policy. Legal wording can be tricky too, and the truth is, sometimes a human can understand the context better than a machine.
If you deal with a wall-of-text kind of a document, try the following tips to simplify its analysis.
1. To learn what personal information is collected and how it is stored and shared, search for certain words in the text. Use “Cmd” or “Ctrl” + “F” hotkeys to search for the following:
- user data
- personal information
- third parties
2. To understand what rights and obligations exist between you and the company, look for the following terms:
- at any time
3. Pay attention to the text written in all caps or in fine print—it may contain important exceptions or limitations.
As you take your online privacy more seriously, you might also like to check out another online tool that protects you from covert trackers that follow your online behavior. Discover StopAd, a new privacy tool from MacKeeper— it hides annoying ads while you browse and prevents advertisers from tracking you. Enjoy worry-free browsing!