The terms of service, also known as the document you’re supposed to read before signing up for a site or platform, is a treasure trove of legal guidelines, rules and permissions that few people really care about.
But there are a few things you’re agreeing to, hidden within the jargon, that might change the way you use the web. Some permissions, like keeping personal information, protecting copyrights and preventing impersonation, are well-known and relatively innocuous. That said, there’s a chance you’re violating a term of service without even realizing it.
Here are 10 things you didn’t realize you agreed to in the social network terms of service you didn’t read, but we did.
1. Facebook has permission to use your photos and videos for whatever it wants.
Have you ever wanted to see that awesome sunset picture you took or a funny video of your cats in a Facebook ad? No? Well, too bad, because when you sign up for Facebook, you give it an expansive royalty-free license to use anything you post that could be considered intellectual property.
You still own all of your content, but Facebook is allowed to use it and give other people the right to use it, too. The only way to revoke the license is by deleting the content from Facebook.
2. You can’t use Facebook if you’re a convicted sex offender.
This one is pretty straightforward. If you’ve been convicted of a sex crime, you aren’t allowed to register for Facebook.
3. You’re required to keep your contact information up to date.
Facebook requires all users to keep their profiles updated with any changes to their contact information so it can make sure your account is kept secure. While it doesn’t specify a timetable for email addresses, the terms say you need to update your cellphone number within 48 hours of making the change.
4. How you explore Twitter, and how you got there
5. You’re not allowed to squat on a username.
Are you planning to set up a Twitter account for your kid to use when he’s old enough? That’s not allowed, according to Twitter’s terms of service. Twitter typically deletes most accounts within six to nine months of inactivity, so it’s unlikely you’d be able to get away with it anyway.
6. You’re not allowed to post sexually suggestive content.
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not just nudity that’s banned. The rule itself isn’t very specific, but its sets a presumably lower benchmark than similar rules from Facebook and Twitter limiting offensive content.
7. You’re not supposed to send ideas to Instagram, but if the company actually reads them and likes them, it’ll use them.
Instagram’s terms outline the company’s policy “not to accept or consider content, information, ideas, suggestions or other materials other than those we have specifically requested.” But, there’s a caveat: If, for some reason, your brilliant idea catches the eye of a higher-up, then Instagram can use it and not give you a cent.
8. You can’t add anyone you don’t actually know.
If you’re familiar with the networking platform, you’ll know that you have to specify how you know someone before you invite her to connect on LinkedIn. If you can’t offer a mutual school or workplace, or don’t have an email address linked to her account, LinkedIn won’t let you connect.
But proving your acquaintance with a potential connection isn’t just a spam roadblock; it’s written into LinkedIn’s terms, too. That said, plenty of people violate it without caring. Networking is cutthroat sometimes, man.
9. Your profile can’t promote escort or prostitution services — even if they’re legal where you live.
Let’s say you’re the proprietor of a lawful business that pairs clients with escorts for, uh, intimate companionship. Don’t bother networking on LinkedIn, because that’s against the rules.
10. You’re not allowed to lie.
It’s said that honesty is the best policy. For LinkedIn, honesty is policy. The network’s user agreement bans users from adding inaccurate information to their profiles. It’s also usually easy for prospective employers to catch, so it’s not worth it in the first place.
This article appeared on Mashable July 24 2014 and was written by Sylvan Lane.
About Sylvan Lane
Sylvan is a Features intern at Mashable and a rising senior at Northwestern University, where he’s ﬁnishing up a double major in Journalism and History. He currently serves as the managing editor for North by Northwestern’s quarterly magazine, and covers Northwestern football for PurpleWildcats.com. Follow him on Twitter @SylvanLane.