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Crucial elements of privacy policy and terms of use agreements

3/12/2012

Privacy policy and terms of use agreements have been under scrutiny lately, with the implementation of a controversial new Google policy that took effect on March 1.

Given the current interest, LifeHacker recently spoke to Mark Lyon, an attorney specializing in computer privacy matters, about the most important components of privacy policies and terms of use agreements. Although the LifeHacker article was aimed at educating consumers, it could also be useful as a point of reference for businesses drawing up these documents in an atmosphere of increased consumer awareness.

Lyon singled out rules related to information sharing as an essential element of these agreements. If a service is going to share user information with a third party, this needs to be spelled out in the user agreement; he pointed out that these third parties are sometimes referred to as "affiliated parties." Other important elements identified by Lyon: opt-out clauses, rules regarding legal recourse if users have a complaint against the company, and any sections written in all capital letters.

In addition to privacy policy and terms of use agreements, Lyon touched on the most important elements of a software license. He cautioned users to check licenses to see whether a company is packaging adware or additional content with a software program. And in the case of subscription services, he said cancelation policies should be spelled out clearly. He said overly complicated cancelation policies could be a red flag that the contract should be avoided.