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10 Things You Didn't Know You Signed

4. Facebook: Give advertisers information about me
Since its inception Facebook has been a lightning rod for controversy, often related to the terms users must abide by. One notable example was when many users were angered to learn about Beacon, an advertising initiative that would mine user data and publicly post online purchases they made. In 2009, the site was prompted to amend its privacy agreement when existing language was deemed open ended enough to allow it the ability to collect and repurpose posted content in any way it desired.

5. Amazon Kindle: My blog belongs to you
Internet law blogger Mike Young recently cautioned against using Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle as an outlet for blogs.

His concern is that "when you sign up, you're giving Amazon a license to do virtually whatever it wants with your blog's content."

"This includes modifying your content, or even turning it into a book without additional permission from you," he adds.

The specific text Young refers to reads: "You hereby grant to each Amazon party, throughout the term of this agreement, a nonexclusive, worldwide right and license to distribute publications as described herein, directly and through third-party distributors, in all digital formats by all digital distribution means available, such right to include, without limitation, the right to: use, reproduce, adapt, modify, and create derivative works of and use and distribute, as we determine appropriate, in our sole discretion."

6. Kodak: I'll pay annually for free storage
Amid the rush to cloud-based storage, be wary of how safe your data will be and for how long.

Kodak Gallery, for example, offers "free" online photo storage. But if you don't read the user agreement, you may face the unpleasant surprise of having those precious memories disappear.

Among Kodak's (EK) terms of use: "To maintain free storage of your images on the site, you need to make purchases totaling at least $4.99 or $19.99, depending upon your storage usage, at least once every 12 months. If you do not meet the applicable purchase requirement, your images may be deleted."

7. Time Warner Cable: I'll behave myself
How you behave yourself online is also defined, albeit with some gray areas, in many user agreements. Video game networks, for example, ban offensive language, including obscenities and slurs.

Time Warner Cable's (TWC) Internet connections "may not be used to upload, post, transmit or otherwise make available any materials or content that violate or infringe on the rights or dignity of others." Does a YouTube video of getting hit in the crotch by a baseball bat count as an affront to your dignity?

Failing to read before you click can also lead to ongoing charges, unwanted downloads, the monitoring of what sites you visit (and for how long) and even hijack your CPU.

8. Digsby: My computer is yours to use as you wish
There was considerable outcry a couple of years ago when users of the instant-messaging client and aggregator Digsby discovered that signing off on the user agreement gave the software the right to collect data and install additional programs derided by users as "malware" and "spamware."

Agreeing to the terms meant you also gave permission for the software to "use the processing power of your computer when it is idle to run downloaded algorithms (mathematical equations) and code within a process. You understand that when the software uses your computer, it likewise uses your CPU, bandwidth and electrical power. The software will use your computer to solve distributed computing problems, such as but not limited to, accelerating medical research projects, analyzing the stock market, searching the Web and finding the largest known prime number."

9. E-cards: Please send me spam
E-cards, those cute and glittery holiday messages relatives love to send, often require you to approve a user agreement. Doing so can open the floodgates for spyware and pop-up programs.

10: McAfee/Microsoft: I won't tell anyone what I think of your product
To the dismay and ongoing disregard of hackers, many software packages prohibit modification or reverse engineering. Other software also tries to suppress users who might want to critique their purchase.

"Hidden within the terms of many EULAs are often serious demands asking consumers to sign away fundamental rights," the Electronic Frontier Foundation says on its website. "Many agreements on database and middleware programs forbid the consumer from comparing his or her product with another and publicly criticizing the product. This obviously curtails free speech and makes it more difficult for consumers to get accurate information about what they're buying by inhibiting professional watchdog groups like Consumer Reports from conducting independent reviews."

This is commonly done by forbidding "benchmarking," measuring the performance of hardware or software in a controlled and defined environment. EFF cites anti-virus giant McAfee (now owned by Intel (INTC)) and Microsoft (MSFT) for having included such language in past agreements.

-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.



>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Joe Mont.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/josephmont.

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