3 Ways You’ve Sold Your Soul To The Internet

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your information on the internetYou may not have participated in a blood ritual sacrifice, and you also may not have sworn your firstborn to a warlock. However, chances are if you spend any time on Facebook, Twitter, or Google, then you have already handed over a great deal of your life over to the Internet.

Sure, on the surface they may have cute pictures of birds and silly pokes from friends, but don’t be fooled, dear readers. The Internet can be evil, and we’re here to make you aware of its malevolent side. Don’t say we don’t do anything for you.

Facebook Owns Your Image

your info on the internet

You might already have some knowledge of what Facebook does with your media. However, you may not have a total understanding, so let’s take a look at the terms of service.

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us 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). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

It’s simple – if you put photos and videos up on Facebook, the website could always give them to other entities (maybe for profit). Facebook isn’t doing that (yet), so have no worries right now, and chances are if you delete it, then the content might no longer be up for grabs. However, if you simply deactivate your account, you may have something to worry about.

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When you deactivate an account, no user will be able to see it, but it will not be deleted. We save your profile information (connections, photos, etc.) in case you later decide to reactivate your account.

To be clear, it might be better to delete your account instead of deactivating it if you don’t plan on coming back. Also, check your privacy settings and make sure that people you don’t know can’t download your photos.

Twitter Borrows Your Thoughts

your pictures on facebook

Twitter has a sweet-sounding brand name, and its powder-blue user interface dotted with innocent-looking birds could make even the burliest of lumberjacks say, “Aww.” However, there might be one part of the terms of service that you may have skipped over.

By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).

Here we have a very similar agreement to Facebook, but this is based only on your tweets. What on earth could Twitter do with those?

You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.

What does this mean? Well, your angry Tweet about your “dumb neighbor who always mows his lawn too short” could end up on the national news, and there’s nothing that you can do about it. Sadly, this could be the case with even a protected account, and if you look further down the terms, you’ll see that Twitter can modify your material as they please.

Google Knows Where You Are

your information on the internet

Ever since Google+ dished out its “real name” policy – which is quite similar to a certain Marvel-related registration act – there has been concern over how Google can ban your account. This isn’t the only way to get shut down, so that makes me personally worried. My Google account is tied to my Blogger publication, my Google Docs, my Gmail, and my YouTube channel.

That got me thinking – what other dirt does Google have on me? Here’s a tidbit of its privacy policy.

Google offers location-enabled services, such as Google Maps and Latitude. If you use those services, Google may receive information about your actual location (such as GPS signals sent by a mobile device) or information that can be used to approximate a location (such as a cell ID).

Although this section potentially has good intentions, we see that Google can track your location based on your phone. It reminds me a great deal of that movie, Enemy of the State. The company could be watching you at any time, so remember when you lied to your mother-in-law about not being able to come over with the wife for dinner? Google knows what you you were doing instead.

This company’s motto may be “don’t be evil”, but even the Jedi had a code of conduct. Just look at what happened to Anakin Skywalker.


These are the “Big Three” when it comes to giving up your identity rights on the Internet, and with so many agreements that they require for usage of their services, the Internet can be a scary environment. Even if it means using CTRL+F for key words, always remember to look at the terms of service.

What other ways have you sold your soul to the Internet? Do you know of any other shady TOS agreements?

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Comments (18)
  • Toby Fox

    I have to say that I do think some of this stuff is a little alarmist. They have to have these really open-ended contracts about what they can do with your intellectual property simply so that they can display it on their website without getting sued, and so that they can change their website and display it some novel way down the line, and not get sued, and so that they can let other applications use your data (like software readers that use the Twitter API or Facebook API) and not get sued. And so that when CNN asks its watchers to tweet them their comments, CNN can use responses on Twitter without getting themselves or Twitter sued. We want all these things, the privacy agreements described are the only way to guarantee them in our paranoid sue-happy world.

    I also can’t believe that any of these guys have any interest in the actual content of the data I put online. Even though I know some photographers that put good quality work up on Facebook albums, is Facebook going to open a photo gallery and sell their (700 pixels wide) shots? Is Twitter going to publish a book? Does Google have the time or money to waste effort writing their software in a way that would even make it possible for our locations to be used for nefarious purposes? They’re just covering their asses for the use of their technology. And then they sell anonymized marketing data they gather from our activities – which is cool, because otherwise they wouldn’t be making any money and we wouldn’t have these useful services.

    I think it’s important that we are aware of these privacy policies because… well, obviously, we are submitting ourselves to them. And I appreciate that these companies are honest and make no attempt to hide what they are legally allowing themselves to do. And of course we (thankfully) have the ability to easily remove ourselves from these services, as it should be. But we should understand and be reasonable about what it is that they’re really asking – it seems sensible to me.

    • J. Lockhart

      Right on, Toby. That’s another way to look at it. I can see where they have to do some of this stuff for legal purposes (and for marketing). Thanks for your input!

  • 2dougmac

    I remember a book that I read in the early ’80’s about a town taken over by an Internet-like cable; it ended that everyone was hooked via cable to their computer-physically. Which, is true today of me, since I’ve been online for the last 5 hours, and firmly rooted now in my recliner.

    I don’t remember the title or author, but that’s always stuck with me, and here I am.

    Not quite on the topic of privacy, but this story was about giving up oneself entirely. Not far from the topic, if you are not aware or care about your privacy.

    • J. Lockhart

      That is pretty terrifying. Like I said above, I’m not worried about some things simply because I don’t have a whole lot to hide (but there are a few things). However, you still have to be careful. 

      With so much time we spend on the computer, it’s almost impossible not to share some delicate information.

  • Little Sister

    This post was in regards to whether or not there is “much to worry about anyway.” MUO commenting software should allow forum-style “replies with quotes.” ^_^

  • Anonymous

    I deleted my facebook account so no not to worry,
    on twitter I’ve hardly any info about me on it,
    only thing is GPS I constantly use but there is no excuse for it if I want to use GPS I just cant use it without a risk…


    • J. Lockhart

      Ha! Well, I don’t know if there is much to worry about anyway. Then again, anyone can find you with the GPS… 

      It just takes one angry Google employee, right?

    • Little Sister

      The myth that privacy advocates such as the EFF are trying to debunk is that if you’re not doing anything wrong, it doesn’t matter what people see online. Sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I don’t believe that. Or as Hall & Oates might put it, I can’t go for that, no can do. Private eyes *are* watching you, with their Google goggles tuned to the max infrared X-ray setting.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the Internet itself was originally developed via a contract between the DoD and M.I.T. in the 1960s — a time of much public uproar during the Vietnam war. Antiwar protesters were under scrutiny from the Feds, and the widening schism between idealistic youth and traditional authorities would have, in the government’s eyes, warranted a national surveillance program to monitor the restless “hippies” and keep them under Big Brother’s proverbial thumb. Nixon wasn’t happy when the truth got out about him, but oh well, right?

      Facebook, Twitter, Google etc. are part of this NWO movement or whatever it’s called (I *am* rather conspiracy minded but trust me, I don’t wear a tin-foil hat). The problem is that common sense gets labeled paranoia and conspiratorial rather than precautionary measures. Admittedly, I don’t care much for Facebook because it’s very exclusive and clique-y and reminiscent of the “Breakfast Club”-style groups in which the “basket case” Ally Sheedy character (that would be me) had nowhere to belong, no one to belong with, and thus no real reason to be there. Don’t get me wrong, I do have “friends” or at least friendly acquaintances I see on several occasions, but the common denominator we share is our collective “outcast-ness” and total disregard for the hipsters on Facebook.

      (The irony, of course, is that the Anthony Michael Hall character is the ’80s equivalent of Markzilla Suckerbird himself. Imagine being an awkward IT geek and founding a multi-billion-dollar corporation with your computer just so you could make friends? Sounds like “Weird Science” to me!)

    • J. Lockhart

      I understand. I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist myself with some things, but I’ve just never really worried too much with the Internet. I’m pretty open with everything I do, and if it’s private, I keep it between myself and another person. 

      However, I can see where the government could possibly use these entities to keep their people in check. Am I going to go out and start throwing out accusations? Of course not. I have no hard evidence, and from a journalistic view, I can’t say whether or not these sites are being used for malicious purposes.

      You do make a good point about the creation of the Internet and the time period that it was associated with. I had never thought of that. I knew it was originally created for governmental purposes, but if what you say could be possibly be true, then the concept is brilliant. (Evil, but brilliant. Disagreeable, but brilliant.)

      Also, I love your comparison of Hughes movies to the Internet. I may just have to steal that from you, if you don’t mind. It really boosted the creativity flow, so I may have to do something with it.

      (By the way, Ally Sheedy may have been the most sane character in the film. Everybody else was worried about what others thought of them – she wasn’t.)

    • Anonymous

      lol… out of the whole world one angry google employee would rather pick someone whom he knows rather than troubling me all the way to India… :p

    • J. Lockhart

      Maybe there are secret Google employees out there. You never know…

    • Anonymous

      *faint* dude I guess you watch too many movies ;)

  • Anil Mohapatra

    Pretty scary vision for the future … Lets be aware of danger if any…

    • J. Lockhart

      It’s a little reminiscent of Big Brother, but I don’t think that they are doing it for malicious purposes… yet.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.