How Privacy and Data Rights Policies Really Stack Up

, Jason
, Howard Lindzon,
and many others
have been writing about privacy and data ownership issues on Facebook. But I haven’t seen a comparison of policies
showing how Facebook actually stacks up against other players in the space.

So, I decided to take a look and see what policies are
actually in place around the web. Following
are links to privacy and terms of use policies for a number of social
networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace), major web service provider (Google,
Yahoo, MSN/Microsoft), blogging (WordPress, SixApart) and user-generated review (Yelp, Flixster) sites. For each of them, I focused on two specific

1) What is their policy on sharing your personal

2) What rights do they require you grant them to content
you create on their site?

Most all of them have similar policies in place regarding sharing
information for legal reasons, but not all of them explicitly and unambiguously
state they will not share your personal information with
marketers/advertisers. And only about
half explicitly limit the license granted on your content only for use in
providing their service.

Here’s an overview:


Best: LinkedIn, MySpace, Google, MSN, WordPress, SixApart,
– these sites have clearly stated policies not to share your information with

Rest: Facebook, Yahoo, Flixster – these sites may share personal
information with marketing partners and advertisers without your consent

Data Rights

Best: LinkedIn, MySpace, Google, WordPress, SixApart, Yahoo
(photos, graphics, audio, or video)
– these sites utilize your content in a limited
manner as necessary in providing their service

Rest: Facebook, Yahoo (Content other than photos, graphics,
audio or video), Flixster, MSN, Yelp
– these sites require you grant them a
license for potentially much broader usage of any content you put on their
sites (in the case of MSN, granting the rights to the public rather than just MSN and in the case of Yelp, potentially preventing you and your friends from creating your own database of reviews you posted on Yelp)

And here are the actual links and excerpted text from the


We share your information with third parties only in limited
circumstances where we believe such sharing is 1) reasonably necessary to offer
the service, 2) legally required or, 3) permitted by you.

irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully
paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publicly
perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part)
and distribute such User Content for any purpose, commercial, advertising, or
otherwise, on or in connection with the Site or the promotion thereof, to
prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such User Content


· We will never rent or sell your personally identifiable information to
third parties for marketing purposes

· We will never share your contact information
with another user, without your consent.

royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable license to use this
information in the course of offering the LinkedIn service.


will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe
that disclosure is necessary: (1) to conform to legal requirements or to
respond to a subpoena, search warrant or other legal process received by, whether or not a response is required by applicable law; (2) to
enforce the Terms of Use Agreement or to protect our rights; or (3)
to protect the safety of members of the public and users of the service.

a limited license to use, modify, publicly perform, publicly
display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on and through the MySpace


Google only shares personal
information with other companies or individuals outside of Google in the
following limited circumstances:

We have your consent. We require
opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information.

By submitting, posting or
displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide,
royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate,
publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which
you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This licence is for
the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the


Microsoft does not sell, rent or lease its MSN customer lists
to third parties.

However, by posting or otherwise
providing your submission, you are granting to the public free permission to:

  • use, copy, distribute, display, publish and modify your
         submission, each in connection with the service;
  • publish your name in connection with your submission;
  • grant these permissions to other persons.


Yahoo! does not rent, sell, or share
personal information about you with other people or non-affiliated companies
except to provide products or services you’ve requested, when we have your
permission, or under the following circumstances:

  • We provide the information to trusted partners who work
         on behalf of or with Yahoo! under confidentiality agreements. These
         companies may use your personal information to help Yahoo! communicate
         with you about offers from Yahoo! and our marketing partners.

· With respect to photos, graphics, audio or
video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas
of the Service other than Yahoo! Groups, the license to use, distribute,
reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on
the Service solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made

· With respect to Content other than photos,
graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly
accessible areas of the Service other than Yahoo! Groups, the perpetual,
irrevocable and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, reproduce,
modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such
Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other works
in any format or medium now known or later developed.

WordPress will not rent or sell potentially personally-identifying and
personally-identifying information to anyone.

By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant
Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce,
modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying,
distributing and promoting your blog.


We do not share your information with unrelated third parties for their
direct marketing purposes.

By uploading, placing or posting Content through this Site or
the Services, you grant Six Apart a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive
license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the
purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting such Content on Six Apart’s
Internet properties.


We do not sell, rent, share, trade
or give away any of your personal information, unless required to by law.

By posting Posted Content on the Yelp Site, you agree to and
hereby do grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant,
Yelp, its contractors, and the users of the Yelp Site an irrevocable,
perpetual, royalty-free, fully sublicensable, fully paid up, worldwide license
to use, copy, publicly perform, digitally perform, publicly display, and
distribute such Posted Content and to prepare derivative works of, or
incorporate into other works, such Posted Content. This license is
non-exclusive, except you agree that Yelp shall have the exclusive right to
practice this license to the extent of combining your Posted Content with the
Posted Content of other Yelp users for purposes of constructing or populating a
searchable database of business reviews.


We may share your information with third-party service
providers including advertisers to help us provide or improve the service.

Flixster may share profile information in a personally identifiable
manner and aggregate usage information in a non-personally identifiable manner
to advertisers and other third parties in order to present to members more
targeted advertising, products and services.

However, by uploading, posting, emailing or otherwise
transmitting any User Submission to Flixster or on the Site, you hereby grant
Flixster a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, perpetual and
irrevocable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, prepare
derivative works based on, perform, display, publish, distribute, transmit,
broadcast and otherwise exploit such User Submissions in any form, medium or
technology now known or later developed, including without limitation on the
Site and third party websites.

One Response to “How Privacy and Data Rights Policies Really Stack Up”

  1. Deva, thanks for doing this!