Instagram — How We Give Away Rights through Online TOS

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What happens when the TOS for Instagram is rewritten in plain English?

For teens, it is an eye opener, but what about for adults? Is your company at risk because of terminology in TOS statements? Read on to discover what we give away when we agree to a TOS for social media.


In an article that ran in the Washington Post, Amy Wang explains what happened when a lawyer rewrote Instagram’s terms of use so that teens could understand their privacy rights.

Wang exposes a truth when she asks the question, how much to teens know about the legal implications of agreeing to TOS statements. She points out that it is the language and the length of those documents which makes them unreadable and we wondered if that was not the point of those long and complicated terms of use statements.

How many adults actually read the terms of use before happily agreeing to whatever they ask of us? The reality is not many people. Yet, in a world where we are highly concerned about internet virus and spyware we give online sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram almost free reign to use our personal information, photographs, and post, even when we think those posts are private, for their own purposes. What that means is that many social media sites can reprint our private messages and make them available to the public. Yes, that is what you agreed to when you clicked that little box that said: “I have read and agree to the terms of use.”

Designed to be Difficult

Privacy terms are important, and we should read them. They are in fact, a contract of sorts and they outline what we should expect from a service and what we give permission to said service. If you had a client contract that needed your signature on it, you’d likely have it reviewed by legal counsel. What is sad is that it would take a lawyer to explain to most adults what we agree to in a TOS statement. That is very much the point of these legal documents. The companies that write them bank on the fact that we internet users want their service more than we want our rights. They are not wrong. Most of us sign away our rights quickly and without even scanning the TOS. We have no idea what we have given away.

The Teens and Instagram’s TOS

What Wang discloses in her article is that teens were shocked at the permission that they gave to Instagram. Teens, like many adults, think that the word private means just that. A private message on social media is not private, and the platform has the right to republish those private messages with your name attached to them. Egads!

The revelation of understanding that what we just said about Mary could become the next viral post with our name attached not only freaks out teens, it freaks out adults. Nothing on social media is truly private. Does that knowledge change our behavior? For many teens, knowing is half of the battle.

What do the Terms of Use do for Businesses?

In a world where online brings danger from the virus, malware, and ransomware it seems odd that we would so freely give away the gate key to our data. One of the means by which to protect our data is to employ security measures that protect our private information. Yet when it comes to online TOS, we gladly hand over permission to use our information. That inconsistency is dangerous.

At Alary Clinitech we work with Oshawa, Toronto and Southern Ontario businesses just like yours to discover weaknesses in IT security. We are a managed IT company and our services help businesses build better security while gaining access to robust tools and software. If your business is concerned about TOS disclosures and internet dangers, then or call us. (416) 291-7377

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