In the last 48 hours, age became a hot topic on Facebook, thanks to Microsoft How-Old.net free age-guessing online tool. It proves age is still a contentious topic, regardless gender, race and obviously age. A marvellous marketing gimmick!
As it always happens, once a story caught fire, a few risk aversive or investigating minds start to dig deeper and uncover an inconvenient truth — the terms of this service authorise Microsoft to use user photos more than just age-guessing. Exactly what are the future uses are unknown!
Working in cloud computing and outsourcing for the last 5 years, it is not unusual to see such user terms and conditions. Most of them are crafted in a way that almost all risks are excluded from the service provider liability. The legal counsels are paid to read all reported and unreported court cases and protect company like Microsoft in this case.
The basic assumptions of data privacy protection is in question here and this case offered a chance to review it.
Consent from user is enough?
For How-Old.net, clearly the intention of user uploading the photo is to find out the age and gender. User don’t expect it to tell if you have diabetes or your sexualities (it maybe possible with enough data points !). However, the service provider terms open to possibility of others uses of the photo, without specifying what it will be. Service providers are giving themselves some elbow room for future innovations. This is actually a typical way how commercial terms response to data privacy legislations.
Most data privacy law requires informed and specific uses of personal data. The rationale is as long as users consent with the uses of PII, there is NO violation of data privacy law. However, we have seen software or web services terms tries to include extensive scope of uses and sometimes non-restrictive uses. Users are either lured to give consent or just ignore the terms completely. User gives consents rather spontaneously !
For those like to read the legal terms , extracted here.
However, by posting, uploading, inputting, providing, or submitting your Submission, you are granting Microsoft, its affiliated companies, and necessary sublicensees permission to use your Submission in connection with the operation of their Internet businesses (including, without limitation, all Microsoft services), including, without limitation, the license rights to: copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, translate, and reformat your Submission; to publish your name in connection with your Submission; and to sublicense such rights to any supplier of the Website Services.