When Online Apps and Companies Violate Your Privacy

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As we know, the various social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+), are constantly updating their terms of service. As consumers, we tend to not read those updated terms and therefore, are not aware of how the changes may affect our privacy and related rights. There are laws in place that limit the amount of information companies can collect and use for marketing and other purposes.

Not long ago, Instagram updated its terms of service. An unhappy user of the immensely popular picture sharing site filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that Instagram’s updated Terms of Services constituted a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied in all contacts because Instagram took expanded rights over user’s photos. Unfortunately for the plaintiff, and for social media users far and wide, the California court did not agree and dismissed the individual’s lawsuit.

A few interesting takeaways from the case include the issue with online agreements, changes to them, and whether the user has agreed to them. In this case, it appeared that the user did agree because she continued to use her account to post photos after it gave her notice that her continued use would constitute acceptance of the new terms.  She admits that she read the new terms, so she had notice, and she continued to use the service, so she agreed to them.

The results in this case do not mean all is lost for consumers. If you are using an online app or store and the company decides to update or change its terms of service without providing meaningful notice, reach out to an experienced breach of contract lawyer in Los Angeles. There have been instances (such as the Zappos case) where the court finds that a one-sided right to change material contract terms is unconscionable and therefore voids the entire agreement.  For example, if the app had provided a paid service with a set contract that both parties had agreed upon, notice and continued use change-of-terms provision would probably not be enforceable unless it also provided for some kind of termination and refund right. A savvy online privacy lawyer can explain this in further detail.

What’s more, the FTC has said over and over again that online privacy policies, which may or may not be an agreement but are at least always representations by the publisher, cannot be retroactively materially changed without notice and consent.  Again, a company does not have a unilateral right to change material terms in an agreement, and failure to get user opt-in to new privacy practices different from the privacy policy in effect at the time the data was collected will still be a deceptive practice.

If you believe that you have been the victim of deceptive practices by an app developer or that the company has broken its contract with you, contact the aggressive Los Anglees trial lawyers at BIKLAW today.

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