What Happens With Your Data When You Sign Up For Online Services?

What Happens With Your Data When You Sign Up For Online Services?

October was cyber security awareness month and we brought you information about how the law protects you from your information being shared illegally whether for advertisement purposes or for any other purpose. The key factor was that you must have provided your express permission to receive direct marketing calls or emails. However, do you read any of the terms and conditions presented to you when signing up for different types of services?

The diagram below illustrates the visual representation of the different social media platforms and other services. There is also an interesting comparison of how long it would take you to read the terms and conditions and how it compares to different books. The Microsoft terms and conditions encompass all their products including Xbox, Teams, Microsoft suite and Bing amongst others.

These are long, and we live in such a fast-paced world that taking time off to read terms and conditions for a whole hour might not always be possible. But what are you agreeing to? Let’s look at a few of these platforms and see what you’re signing up to when you click “agree”.


“Facebook builds technologies and services that enable people to connect with each other, build communities and grow businesses…We don’t charge you to use Facebook, or the other products and services covered by these Terms. Instead, businesses and organisations pay us to show you ads for their products and services. By using our Products, you agree that we can show you ads that we think will be relevant to you and your interests. We use your personal data to help determine which ads to show you.”1

Do these words look familiar to you or are you one of the millions of people around the world that are quick to press the “agree” button before reading the actual terms and conditions? In as much as Facebook does not share your personal information (such as your name, email address or other contact information) to advertisers, they will only share your information with the advertisers if you give them specific permission.

“Instead, advertisers can tell us things such as the kind of audience that they want to see their ads, and we show those ads to people who may be interested. We provide advertisers with reports about the performance of their ads that help them understand how people are interacting with their content.” 1 The minimum age for anyone to join Facebook is 13 (unless a specific country has a different age restriction). The question then becomes, are you aware of what information your children are disseminating online, are they using platforms they are not old enough to use? Equally important is, what are they being exposed to in terms of targeted marketing?

There is always a give or take of course and in this instance part of the rules of using the platform is that you may not use Facebook to share anything that infringes or violates someone else’s rights, including their intellectual property rights (IPR). Facebook acknowledges that you own the IPR to the content that you create and share on the platform and other Facebook Company Products. When signing up on Facebook, you sign up to give the company legal permission to use your content. When you post or upload content that is covered by IPR, you grant Facebook a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free and worldwide licence to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings).

Facebook has the permission to store, copy, and share the content that you share with other service providers or other Facebook products that one uses. This license is terminated once you delete the content from Facebook. Deletion can be by deleting individual content or deleting your Facebook account. But…Even if you delete the content or your account, not all your information is deleted immediately.


Another important fact is that Facebook collects information from your device. This includes data from cookies stored on your device (including cookie IDs and settings). There is an entire document on the Facebook cookie policy. Other information collected includes activities off Facebook such as websites you visit, purchases you make and ads that you see (even if you don’t have a Facebook account. Facebook uses this information to provide, personalise and improve your experience when using their products.

You can limit some of this access by going to settings in the app then under security, deactivating some of the permissions shared in Apps and Websites and Off-Facebook activity. Here, you limit information shared about your activities and what other websites share with Facebook. There are a lot of things to consider when using Facebook. Next time when you use the service, keep in mind that your information will be collected whether you’re online or offline. On a last note, did you know that you can set your preferences on Facebook to decide what happens to your account after you pass on?

Written by: Tumelo Mashabela, Managing Director and Registered Patent Attorney

For all your IP, commercial and corporate law services, please contact us on 012 942 8710 / info@tm-attorneys.africa. You can also find us on social media platforms with the handle @TshayaMashabelaAttorneys (@TshayaMashabela on Twitter).


1. https://www.facebook.com/terms.php

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *