Facebook Fined In German Intellectual Property Dispute

This is a story that dates back to four years ago when a German court found that Facebook’s terms and conditions did not address the circumstances in which users intellectual property could be used by Facebook or even licensed to third parties. That still seems to be an issue as a regional court in Berlin found that Facebook still hasn’t changed their terms and conditions to properly reflect these concern and in return, they were slapped with a €100,000 fine.

The complaint was originally filed by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) and the court agreed that Facebooks terms and conditions weren’t clear on the issue. Naturally Facebook complied with the request, or at least partially. They did change the wording of the statement on intellectual property in the terms, but according to this new ruling, the message remained the same. Now Facebook has to write them a small check for the amount of hundred thousand Euros while they still need to change their wording and make it clear to the users when they give up their intellectual rights.

This ruling comes just a week after Mark Zuckerberg visited Berlin where he got the first ever Axel Springer Award for entrepreneurship and innovation. If timed better, he could have paid the fine before heading home again. Jokes aside, terms and conditions for software usage are, generally speaking, a nightmare for any user to navigate and understand. For the most part, they are written in ambiguous ways that benefit the creator rather than the user and in such lengths that barely anyone bothers to read it before they agree. This is a huge problem in my opinion and I hope that we’ll see more companies fined for bad practices in this area. Maybe one day we’ll actually understand what we agree to.

While the court’s ruling stated that the problem was with the wording, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We complied with the order to clarify a single provision in our terms concerning an IP license a while ago. The court felt we did not update our terms quickly enough and has issued a fine, which we will pay.”

I’m sure that this isn’t the last time that we hear about this issue.

UK Government Considering Fining ISPs For Unclear T&Cs

Purchasing any service-based contract including mobile phones, electricity or internet access can be very confusing. This is down to the complex small print which many people simply disregard. It’s not surprising though given the baffling terms which sometimes have a number of contradictions. Plus, many customers don’t have the time to read sit and read through a wall of text using a tiny font. Companies know this and exploit the notion that hardly anyone reads the terms and conditions of a contract. For example, internet service providers usually outline their traffic management system and bandwidth restrictions during peak times. This means with some ISPs, you might have “unlimited downloads” but the speed is capped to a ridiculously slow rate after so much data has been downloaded within a 24 hour period. As such, it’s so important to read the fine print or ask an independent expert about a service’s restrictions.

The UK government has launched a new consultation to make companies adopt an easier-to-understand small print and anyone who doesn’t comply could face hefty fines. According to the Terms and Conditions and Consumer Protection Fining Powers paper, ISPs should clearly outline “the average monthly cost as well as the total charge”. Additionally, the government may require companies to list their terms in a “bolt and upfront” manner. Online retailers would have to reformat the small print to make it legible on smartphones and consumers could receive a cheaper tariff for reading a contract’s terms and conditions. The government is clearly trying to encourage customers to read the small print but this is easier said than done.

We live in a very fast modern world where people work long hours and have limited spare time. However, you should always adopt a cynical approach and make time to read a contract’s small print to ensure the service provided is what you expect.

The Privacy Question Of Windows 10

Windows 10 is out as of today (Wednesday 29th July 2015) and on the surface is a major improvement over the much maligned Windows 8. This should be excellent news for consumers, which it is to a large extent, but what is lurking under the hood in terms of privacy?

Well, according to the Windows 10 piracy and service agreement (even word knows where I am going with this as I typed privacy and this was changed to piracy) There are a few settings which you might want to take note of.

Data Sync

Firstly, Microsoft has implemented “Data Syncing” by default, this means when you sign in with your Windows account, the operating system immediately syncs settings and data to the companies servers. This includes your browser history, favourites and the websites you currently have open as well as saved app, website and mobile hotspot passwords and Wi-Fi network names and passwords.

You can opt out of this if you look under “settings” but just to be clear, you are already opted in to Data Sync unless you decide that you would rather not have your history on Microsoft’s servers.

Information Cortana shares

Like the idea of voice assistant “Cortana” you might also like to know what data is also shared within this feature, which includes information such as your device location, data from calendars, the apps you use, data from emails and texts, who you call, your contacts, how often you use your device (takes in a deep breath) What music you like, alarm settings, if you have the lock screen on, what you view and purchase, your voice input as well as nicknames, names of people and appointments, whether or not you’re building an underground lair aaannnndddd how often you interact with them on your device. Granted Cortana is designed to “learn” from analysing information, a lot of information as it turns out.

Microsoft’s encryption and collection of data

The terms and conditions also state that Microsoft will collect app use data for apps that run on Windows’ and ‘data about the networks you connect to” Windows 10 will also generate a unique advertising ID for each user on each device, this can and probably will be used by developers and ad networks to profile you. You can turn advertising profiling off in the settings, which might be worth a look.

Like the idea of encrypting your drive? It might be worth mentioning that your BitLocker recovery key will be backed up to your OneDrive account.

Disclosing data

Now for the killer privacy lacking feature, the following is what Microsoft defines as to who they might disclose your data to.

“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services”

This is not clear when the criteria would be met and who they might disclose private data in folders to. Behind the glossy façade lays at the very least a few questionable policies which might infringe on basic liberties. If you’re using Windows 10, I would have another look at the settings to see what can be turned off, that is unless you’re happy with Microsoft’s new arrangements with its customers.

Thank You thenextweb, Microsoft Privacy and service agreement

Image courtesy of christianpost

Social Media Should Simplify Terms and Conditions, UK Parliamentary Committee Recommends

The terms and conditions on social media websites should be radically simplified, the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee has advocated, in a report released on Friday. MPs argue that the complex user agreements in place presently obscure how users’ data can be used. The report calls on the UK government, in conjunction with the Information Commissioner, to create a set of standards and guidelines to make social media terms and conditions more user-friendly.

“Let’s face it, most people click ‘yes’ to terms and conditions contracts without reading them, because they are often laughably long and written in the kind of legalese you need a law degree from the USA to understand, “ says Andrew Miller MP, chair of the Science and Technology Committee. “Socially responsible companies wouldn’t want to bamboozle their users, of course, so we are sure most social media developers will be happy to sign up to the new guidelines on clear communication and informed consent that we are asking the government to draw up.”

The report seems to ignore the legal obligations that social media sites must operate under, and the fact that, unless the website is based in the UK, parliament has no power or jurisdiction to enforce such guidelines.

Source: TNW