Web

Terms & Conditions: Yelp owns your business – forever

Terms and Conditions Yelp

What 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.

Online review powerhouse Yelp landed in the news recently after a user was sued for criticizing a business on the website. Christopher Dietz, owner of Dietz Development, claimed that a negative review by former customer Jane Perez cost his business $300,000. That may seem like a lot, but a study by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Michael Luca found that “each ratings star added on a Yelp review translated to anywhere from a 5 percent to 9 percent effect on revenues.”

Given Yelp’s potential power over businesses, it’s time we took a look at the website’s Terms of Service.

Terms of Service

To start, Yelp maintains a fairly long and unwieldy ToS. It’s not packed with as much double-speak as, say Facebook’s Data Use Policy. But it’s dense enough that I doubt many Yelp users have ever read the document, for fear of dying before getting to the end of it. So for the sake of brevity, I will focus on just three areas: content ownership, Yelp rules, and membership auto-delete.

Content ownership

Yelp explicitly states that you both “own” your content – anything you post to the site, from reviews to photos – and that you along are responsible for what you post.

However, the company also stipulates that anything you post to Yelp may be used by Yelp for any reason whatsoever, including putting your photos, business profile, or reviews in advertisements. Not only that, but Yelp reserves the right to use your content even after you delete your account – forever.

“We may use Your Content in a number of different ways, including publicly displaying it, reformatting it, incorporating it into advertisements and other works, creating derivative works from it, promoting it, distributing it, and allowing others to do the same in connection with their own websites and media platforms (“Other Media”).” reads Yelp’s ToS. “As such, you hereby irrevocably grant us world-wide, perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty-free, assignable, sublicensable, transferable rights to use Your Content for any purpose.”

It continues: “In the event of any termination of these Terms, whether by you or us, Sections 1, 5, 6, 10 – 14 will continue in full force and effect, including our right to use Your Content as detailed in Section 5.”

Ridiculous? Yes. But of course, Yelp isn’t Instagram; because, if it were, people would be freaking the hell out right now.

Yelp rules

Did you know that you may not use Yelp if you’re under the age of 18? It’s true. That is just one of more than 20 rules listed in Yelp’s Terms of Service. The number and nature of the rules is comparable to most websites, which forbid users to do things like harass each other, impersonate other people, etc. Yelp has gone the extra step, however, of issuing a separate set of Content Guidelines, which all users must follow.

They are as follows:

  • Inappropriate content: Colorful language and imagery is fine, but there’s no need for threats, harassment, lewdness, hate speech, and other displays of bigotry.
  • Conflicts of interest: Your contributions should be unbiased and objective. For example, you shouldn’t write reviews of your own business or employer, your friends’ or relatives’ business, or businesses in your networking group.
  • Promotional content: Unless you’re using your Business Owners Account to add content to your business’s profile page, we generally frown upon promotional content. Let’s keep the site useful for consumers and not overrun with commercial noise from every user.
  • Relevance: Please make sure your contributions are relevant and appropriate to the forum. For example, reviews aren’t the place for rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.
  • Privacy: Don’t publicize other people’s private information. Please don’t post close-up photos of other people without their permission, and please don’t post other people’s full names unless you’re referring to service providers who are commonly identified by their full names.
  • Intellectual property: Don’t swipe content from other sites or users. You’re a smart cookie, so write your own reviews and take your own photos, please!

Again, all of this is straightforward, normal, and fair. Just keep in mind that, because of the effects of negative Yelp reviews on businesses, leaving a review that violates these guidelines could, if you’re really unlucky, result in federal prosecution. (But most likely, your review will just be deleted by Yelp.)

Oh, auto-delete

One of my missions in life is to bring to light a provision that appears in many Terms of Service that I believe is completely unfair: I call it “auto-delete,” and it could end your Yelp membership at anytime.

From the Terms: “We may close your account, suspend your ability to use certain portions of the Site, and/or ban you altogether from the Site for any or no reason, and without notice or liability of any kind. Any such action could prevent you from accessing your account, the Site, Your Content, Site Content, or any other related information.”

As mentioned, Yelp also says that, if such a termination of your account occurs, Yelp can continue to use your account content however it wishes.

Conclusion

All said, I actually like Yelp a lot; it provides consumers with a valuable service. But it should really re-think the content ownership and account auto-delete provisions in its Terms. They aren’t helping anybody but Yelp itself.

Web

Google Translate updated to reduce gender bias in its translations

Google is changing how Google Translate offers translations. Previously when you entered a word like doctor, Translate would offer a masculine interpretation of the word. Now, Translate will offer both masculine and feminine versions.
Mobile

How to switch from iPhone to Android: The ultimate guide

If you've decided to bridge the great tech divide and leave Apple's walled garden for the unknown shores of Android, then you'll find all the tips and advice you need to begin switching from an iPhone to an Android device.
Movies & TV

Do you have questions about Hulu? We’ve got answers

Not sure which Hulu subscription is right for you? We're here to help. This is your complete guide to Hulu and Hulu with Live TV, including content offerings for each service, pricing, internet requirements, and more.
Computing

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.
Computing

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.
Web

Encryption-busting law passed in Australia may have global privacy implications

Controversial laws have been passed in Australia which oblige tech companies to allow the police to access encrypted messages, undermining the privacy of encryption with potentially global effects.
Web

Can Microsoft’s Airband Initiative close broadband gap for 25M Americans?

A new report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that 25 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet. Of these, more than 19 million are living in rural communities. Can Microsoft help out?
Computing

Microsoft’s Chromium Edge browser may be adding your Chrome extensions

Fans sticking to Google Chrome because due to its vast extension library might be able to switch over to Microsoft's latest iteration of Edge, as a project manager confirms that the company has its eyes on Chrome extensions.
Computing

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.
Computing

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.
Computing

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Mobile

5G: Why everything is about to change

Curious about the many ways 5G will change and enrich your life? Here’s our guide to all things 5G.
Computing

Firefox 64 helps keep your numerous tabs under control

Mozilla officially launched Firefox 64 by placing new features into the laps of its users including new tab management abilities, intelligent suggestions, and a task manager for keeping Firefox's power consumption under control.