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Internet Family Fun

User Agreements

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Why You Should Read User Agreements and Terms of Service

Every time you click a box on a form that says, "I Agree", it means that you are agreeing to the Terms of Service (user agreement). These user agreements appear all over the place, like when install software or when you sign up for a service like your Internet Service Provider. Many Web sites have a user agreement that you automatically agree to, just by using their Web site. User agreements are typically very long and contain very dry, legal terms that aren't very fun to read. Reading them is time-consuming but you really should because you may be agreeing something that you don't want to.

Although, in some instances these User Agreements may not hold up in court, most are legally binding. Of course, if the User Agreement said "by using this software or Web site, you agree to sign over your life savings" it probably wouldn't hold up in court but you could end up with extra charges that you are responsible for, signing up for piles of spam or even a company using your computer to perform other customers calculations. The only way to know what you are agreeing to is to read what you are virtually signing.

You Can't Change User Agreements, So Why Bother Reading Them?
True! You can't change them but that is your chance to back-out before you agree to something. For instance, a while ago, a free Internet service user agreement allowed them to also install a program on your computer that allowed them to use your computer and it's calculating power and then send the information back to them. If you didn't read the user agreement, you wouldn't know that (it wasn't mentioned anywhere else) and you might be running around trying to fix a sluggish computer that automatically dialed up the Internet because of this extra program.

Different Types of User Agreements

  • Web site User Agreements
    Many Web sites have user agreements that you agree to when you use that site.
  • Software User Agreements
    Almost all software has user agreements where you agree not to reproduce the software and many other things. Be careful with the other things though because the software package could contain spyware or other clauses that you don't want to agree to.
  • Internet Service Providers
    When you sign up with an Internet Service Provider, almost all have a user agreement with items that may surprise you. For instance, your Internet Service Provider may have a clause in their user agreement that says they can track your Web usage and then sell the information. Also, most Internet Service Providers have the clause that it is against the terms of the user agreement to transmit copyrighted material, give out your password to anyone other than the an immediate family member living in the same house and not to sign on to the same account on two different computers at the same time. Breaking the terms of service may cost you financially and you may no longer be able to use their service.

I agree that reading the user agreements is boring but you never know what they may contain, so you should read them. Taking the time to do it before you install or use a service may save a lot of aggravation down the road.

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