terms of service

.Net Magazine - Issue 189

net189cover130jpgI answered the Big Question in the ever brilliant .net issue 189, you can read the original here.What, in your opinion, is the biggest myth on the web?The biggest online myth is also a huge ticking time bomb: data ownership. Even today there is a naive assumption that we own our online data. If you’re using web applications, especially in a SaaS (Software as a Service) environment you really might want to read the small print. Even if you’re paying for online services you may still have little protection.Without sounding alarmist, often you are signing your rights away without realising it. The classic example is the recent Facebook Terms of Use debacle. The original alterations granted Facebook an irrevocable worldwide licence to use your data as it saw fit. Facebook’s reaction was immediate and excellent, but faced with the potential wrath of 175million active users it didn’t really have a choice.The second point is about access to your data. People rarely discover how integrated their content is to a particular service until they need to retrieve it. This is especially relevant in today’s economy; tech companies are falling off cliffs at an alarming rate, often with little or no warning. If your SaaS-based provider suddenly vanished, what can you say to the tax authorities if you can’t answer their questions?We are using online applications for almost every walk of life, from social networks to the most intricate of business operations. If your life or business revolves around them, that small print may be important.