Read your Facebook EULA lately?

There’s been a huge amount of discussion in the media over the last 48 hours about Facebook’s experiment on emotional contagion and whether it was appropriate for the social media company to carry it out. Here’s one such article from the Wall Street Journal.

What a lot of people are finding frightening, as Gismodo explains, is that they didn’t realize that they had actually agreed to take part when they signed up to the company’s EULA.

No idea what a EULA is? You’re not alone.  A EULA is an end-user licensing agreement. It’s essentially the big blurb of terms and conditions that you have to tick the “I agree” box next to in order to be able to use the service.

Do you remember agreeing to taking part in Facebook experiments? No? Well, if you’re a Facebook user, the chances are that you have agreed to it. Statistically, there’s a strong possibility that you never read the EULA before you agreed to it. In a recent Mozy investigation,[1] less than 10 percent of people told us that they made a point of reading a EULA before signing up to an online service and more than 30 percent never read any of them.

If there’s one lesson to take away from this incident, it’s to carefully check the EULAs on the cloud services you’re using, both personally and at work. Can your provider view your data? Can they change the location of your data center? Who owns your data if you want to leave the service?

And it’s not just the core cloud services that your company uses that you should check over. Many companies have a huge “shadow IT” infrastructure set up by people who might not have access to legal support and are often unfamiliar with best practice in selecting IT partners. If your business lets individuals choose their own services to move large files, sync data to the cloud, outsource role-specific IT support—or anything else—make sure you have a policy for checking those EULAs. Because, if it’s not being done centrally, there’s a good chance that it’s not being done at all!

And, if you don’t know what sort of issues to be looking for in your EULAs, check out this white paper from IDC.



[1] Online poll carried out in December 2013 of Facebook users in the USA, Ireland, UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.