AMITIAE - Friday 29 January 2016
Cassandra: Twitter Terms - Whose Content is it Anyway?
By Graham K. Rogers
The ideas behind Terms & Conditions is one aspect of the course and I ask around the class about reading these. Not one student has ever read anything about the T&C before clicking on the Agree button and entering what could be a digital minefield.
Apple is particularly galling here with the several sets of user agreements displayed when setting up devices, as some appear in English and some in Thai. While there may be English versions for the Thai texts, these would need to be tracked down before installation was possible if the user really wanted to make sure. I do not known if Thai versions of the English texts exist; but if a user selects a specific language, T&C or Agreements should be provided in that language only.
I had highlighted in the class the T&C of Facebook as well as the EULA of Windows 10. Not being a Windows user this was brought to my attention by local Twitter user @smartbrain, who also writes for Telecomasia.
Of particular interest is the privacy section of the License Agreement which in part states, "By accepting this agreement and using the software you agree that Microsoft may collect, use, and disclose the information as described in the Microsoft Privacy Statement (aka.ms/privacy), and as may be described in the user interface associated with the software features."
There is no direct link from that page, but the Microsoft Privacy Statement is easily found. "It applies to Bing, Cortana, MSN, Office, OneDrive, Outlook.com, Skype, Windows, Xbox and other Microsoft services, . . . " but this is no more than a FAQ.
Some data is collected using cookies and other tech., as well as from 3rd parties. The data is used to help users, and to target ads, but that does not include email, photos, video, voice or other personal communications. Data is shared with other MS departments and vendors as well as those who make legal requests, and includes the reason, "to protect lives." There is also a link to Trustworthy Computing, but the entire information on privacy is couched in such cosy terms that it is difficult to know exactly what is being done.
This is not my main concern here and is another problem entirely. Over the past few years it has become apparent that any data now transferred over the internet that crosses any border is liable to capture by the security services in many countries.
The privacy section contains several similar ideas to Microsoft and other organisations in terms of what Twitter may do with the information a user supplies, such as tailoring ads, sending SMS messages (if the phone number is provided). Note that the date, time, location, time-zone are all part of the metadata that are used mainly to "analyze the information for trends and insights".
That Location information may be "precise location information from GPS, information about wireless networks or cell towers near your mobile device, or your IP address". Information will also include the links we use, information from cookies and the use of 3rd party apps. Much of this comprehensive metadata is retained for 18 months.
There are other reasons, but these appear to be of the most significant concern to users, law abiding or not.
The content I submit to the Bangkok Post is published under their copyright: the content in print edition and the website are theirs. At the same time, I own the copyright for that content I post on my site (the same article, for example) and I also retain the ownership of the original images (only edited versions are sent to the newspaper or put on my site).
The copyright of others is also covered and content will be removed if it is shown that a user has posted anything they do not have permission to use. The Twitter Terms of Service ends with information about how a user may end the legal agreement and how Twitter may terminate the services, followed by a considerable amount of legalese, beginning with "Please read this section carefully" for anyone who has managed to get this far.
Twitter has become of considerable value to many users, for the way in which outlines of events worldwide are more likely to be posted there than on any news site. I would be reluctant to cease using Twitter, in the same way that Facebook is necessary to me from the point of view of contact with my students: each has a function these days in the way we now communicate.
With Facebook and Twitter, I have never posted high-quality images and will continue in this way; but I will also add a watermark to some of the images I post: to limit the value of any image for other media; and to state clearly my ownership of the picture.
The Terms that Facebook posts are a little less clear (and hard to find in some cases - dotted around on several pages) but include, the granting by users to Facebook of a "non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License)."
As with the T&C of Twitter, it is that sub-licensable part that may be of concern, and the general information notes that anything posted "can be seen or accessed through online search engines, APIs, and offline media, such as on TV" which would appear to put the onus on those outside media to ask first, although it is probable that some news organisations will use first and then negotiate. Or not.
Technical NoteTo watermark images I use iWatermark Pro from Plum Amazing. There are versions for OS X, iOS, Android and Windows, so there is no excuse. Users should make the ownership of their images clear.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.
For further information, e-mail to
Back to Home Page