What is Terms of Service Agreements?

What it teaches:

Using technology often means having a relationship with a company or organization. Accepting their Terms of Service agreements can be a required part of using the service. This video teaches why these agreements exist, and how they can impact users. It teaches:

  • How Terms of Service agreements are easy to overlook
  • How lack of awareness about these agreements could cause problems
  • Why Terms of Service agreements exist
  • How Terms of Service can be used to understand a company’s policies

Video Transcript:

The first time you use an app or online service, you’re likely to see a checkbox that says something like, You agree to our Terms of Service. To proceed, you have to check the box.

You might assume that the Terms of Service doesn’t really matter or reading it isn’t worth your time. So, you check the box without knowing what it says. And that’s where problems can begin. Think about it this way.

Imagine visiting a water park with slides and pools. Before you jump in, you need to sign a contract that looks a lot like Terms of Service. The water looks inviting, so you quickly sign it and jump in.

Then two weeks later, a commercial for the water park appears and there you are, in a swimsuit, on TV. You’re horrified and frustrated. How could this happen? They didn’t ask me about this. Did they?

The contract you signed when entering the park was legally binding. That contract said your image could be used in advertising, but you never saw that section. Now, it’s too late.

The water park contract and Terms of Service on websites and apps are similar. Both are meant to make the relationship between you and the company clear and help avoid disputes.

So that check mark has a lot of power. When you check it, you are agreeing to a set of rules, written by the company, that could impact your privacy, your access to the site and your ability to resolve disputes with the company, among other things.

An example is social networking. Before using a new service, you must check the Terms of Service box. This time, however, you read it and find that it outlines items like ownership of what you share and what represents misuse of the service.

Down in the middle of the document you see information on privacy and find that the company has the right to sell your personal information to other companies, including your email address. In another section, you learn that your account can be closed at any time, without notice.

Suddenly, this new service looks different to you. The terms of service has details that matter and could influence your decision to join. This time, you decide it’s not worth it.

Reading and understanding the Terms of Service agreement provided a way to know your rights and understand the website’s policies. So, it’s not just a single checkbox. If you check it, you are agreeing to a number of checkboxes for rules that could matter to you.

If the rules seem fair to you, check the box and dive in. But if you don’t agree with them, you have the freedom to not check the box and find another service that better fits your needs.


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