Terms & Conditions: Twitpic holds your photos hostage

twitpic terms and conditionsWhat are you really agreeing to when you click that fateful “agree button? Terms & Conditions cuts out the legal lingo to spell it out in plain English.

Just as its name implies, Twitpic is one of those services you use alongside Twitter, but you don’t really think about using it. It’s just there, part of the (shrinking) Twitter ecosystem, with everyone from your savvy aunt to Ryan Secrest filling its ranks. And because Twitpic is, more than anything, a Twitter piggy-back service, it’s all the less likely that any of us have actually bothered to read its terms of service. It’s time we change all that. Here are the most important bits from Twitpic’s ToS.

Terms of Service

Here at T&C, I like to make note of the companies that have made a concerted effort to write their terms in such a way that anyone can read them. Twitpic is one of those companies. Unfortunately for Twitpic users, that’s pretty much where the praise ends.

Forbidden!

Like any service that collects data about its users, Twitpic does not technically allow anyone under the age of 13 to sign up. (It’s against the law to collect data on people under 13 without parental consent.) Twitpic also forbids users from using the service for spam, junk mail, or “pyramid schemes.” (Note: If you somehow run a pyramid scheme on Twitpic, please get in touch with me. That sounds amazing and hilarious. Seriously, hit me up.) You are also forbidden from “data scraping,” or gathering data about Twitpic users to build profiles, which can then be sold to marketers (or stalkers, as the case may be).

Oh, and no nude pics, or anything else that is “offensive in nature.”

Consequences = yours

Twitpic strips itself of all responsibility for the images you upload to its service, so don’t try to sue it for a phone one of its users posted to the service. Furthermore, by browsing Twitpic, don’t be surprised if you are suddenly confronted by some disturbing or offensive imagery – it’s not supposed to be there, but that doesn’t mean it’s not.

If you’re gonna sue, sue fast

In situations where you believe Twitpic has violated your rights in some way, you can sue the company. However, Twitpic has slipped in a “statute of limitations” clause into its terms, which make it impossible for users to sue for anything that happened more than a year prior. This is a sly, backhanded legal move, and Twitpic should be ashamed of itself for including it.

Your photos are not your photos

When you upload a picture to Twitpic, you “retain all ownership rights” to that photo. Except that, as long as the image remains visible on Twitpic, the company, its business partners, and all other Twitpic users have the right to “use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content [i.e. you photos]” pretty much any way they want.

Delete does not mean delete

If you delete a photo from Twitpic, that photo is never actually deleted. It will remain on Twitpic’s servers in perpetuity. And if, for whatever reason, law enforcement wants to access your “deleted” photos, Twitpic could easily hand them over, and says explicitly that it will do so.

Privacy Policy

While we do not always cover privacy policies here at T&C, the worrisome terms of Twitpic made me concerned that the company’s privacy policy would be equally disconcerting. Surprising to me, it’s not that bad.

Of course, Twitpic serves advertisements, which means both Twitpic and the companies that display ads through Twitpic are installing cookies or other tracking mechanisms, which collect information about your online activities. You can easily block all that by installing a tracker blocker browser plugin like Ghostery or DoNotTrackPlus.

The real privacy concern with Twitpic is not with the company’s policy, but with how you use the service: Posting pictures of your life for anyone on the Web to see can give identity thieves and other nefarious characters key details that might expose you to dangers. This is especially true when information gathered from your photos is combined with other publicly available details, Foursquare check-ins or other location data.

So, as always, be careful what you post on the Internet. Not everyone on here has your best interests in mind.

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