Most Of Us Don't Read Those Long-Form User Agreements. What Are We Agreeing To When We Accept?

The Importance of Reading Terms & Conditions

Signing User AgreementsDo you read the long-form "Terms and Conditions" that many web-based services require users to sign? If you don't, are you aware of what you are agreeing to?

Considering the length of these documents and the legalese in which it is written, it’s safe to say that most of us click “I Accept” without reading. Since we want the service, choosing “Decline” is not really an option.

So, what are you agreeing to by clicking “I Accept?” It depends on the service, however, some general things are likely: 


Make no mistake, signing these user agreements undermines your privacy. Data is a hot commodity for marketers and advertisers, and when you accept their terms you often give permission for that service to sell off your data to third parties. This results in more spam email in your inbox, more calls from unknown numbers, and more solicitations coming your way. While companies do have an interest in protecting your sensitive information, other information is fair game. Ultimately, the more available your data is to third parties, the more vulnerable it is.

External links

A company’s Terms and Conditions may be separate from the Privacy Policy and often times the latter will be included in the former only as a hyperlink. When you agree to one, you agree to both, even if you are unaware that you are agreeing to both. If someone interested in reading the Privacy Policy, it may require navigation to a separate website to read it.

Intellectual Property

The shareable nature of digital media and social media platforms facilitates many practices that may violate rules laid out in the Terms and Conditions, or someone may be giving up certain rights to intellectual property or content that is created and shared within that particular software program or social media platform. Importantly, the visibility and use of user content can often be controlled by establishing the correct security settings for your account. If you accept Terms and Conditions, and you don’t set customize your settings, you may be allowing personal information to be used indiscriminately by the platform. As such, we strongly encourage you to routinely check your security and privacy settings to ensure that your content is accessible or inaccessible based on your preference. 

Remember, these types of digital services have an interest in securing access to as much as data as possible. It’s up to the user to be vigilant in understanding what’s being agreed upon when accepting these Terms and Conditions, and how to best control your information after the fact.  Although inconvenient, we advise reading them before accepting.

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