Do you use Gmail or any other Google applications?  If so, you have probably granted Google a licence to use your data that is stored or sent through their servers. Under Gmail’s Terms of Service, you retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in your materials, however, by accepting their terms, you grant Google a license to use your materials to “reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display through their services.”

Furthermore, under this licence they can “make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services”.

What does this mean?

Any commercial information that is transmitted by email through a Gmail account, could, in theory, be used by Google for their purposes, or the purposes of companies they provided other services with.  Think back to some of your recent email exchanges with friends or in business and ask yourself whether you are happy with Google to see and / or use the contents of your email for their own purpose?

Social Media Use

The use of social media sites like Facebook is also not without its perils of confidentiality and privacy.

Depending upon your privacy and application settings, by posting content (information or photographs),  you are also granting Facebook a licence to use that content unless you delete that content and that the content has not been shared with others.  If it has been shared, then they retain a licence to your materials, even if you have deleted it.

Furthermore, according to Facebook’s terms, “when you publish content or information using the 'everyone' setting, it means that you are allowing everyone [including people who are not in your Facebook network] to access and use that information, and to associate it with you.”

So a late night photograph taken of you at your less-than-finest, could be posted on Facebook without your consent and then used by anyone else on Facebook.

The Lesson

It is crucial to understand the risks associated with your (or your company’s) use of these services.  Social media and internet companies play an important role in our lives, but check the terms and conditions. If you’re not prepared to accept the risks of sharing your content, do not use the product.

In addition, set the privacy and account settings based on the level of risk you are prepared to accept.

For more information on Google terms click here

For more information on Facebook terms click here