I hope it is legit question, similar to, for example, Why do law-abiding citizens need strong security?, et al. and it is tightly conected with user's security, privacy, etc.

The response I always run into for any complaint about inadequate or illegal Terms of Service (ToS, Terms of Use), Privacy Policy, etc. takes the form:

"Don't use it (our service) if you don't like it"

even in discussions in 3d-party forums, which is IMO synonym of:

"Don't use internet"

since such illegal ToS, privacy policies are nearly ubiquitous on websites and on-line services, even including major players such as Google, Facebook, Automatic (WordPress), et al.

How can I refute such answer?

Update (28 Febr 2012):
I'd like to remind to answeres and commenters that the question is about argumentation against illegal ToS's statements and apologia of ToS's sublegality in 3d-party (forum) discussions.

Not about proving of whether private data being sold or not.

Earlier in answers to question:

And the logical and judical foundation for it are provided illegal ToS (Terms of Services, Terms of Use, Rules, Policies).

  • 1
    To enforce such policies, websites make user sign in, read and understand the ToS and confirm. It's a contract between the user and the service provider. So if he's still saying such BS, you can always go to court and prove him wrong/stupid. It's legal stuff, not related to the Internet.
    – Aki
    Feb 26, 2012 at 9:45
  • 1
    Just ti make it more clear. If, in Russia, I use US-based service, to which court may I go? In my experience, the local judges do not even know English Feb 28, 2012 at 19:27

2 Answers 2


Different countries take a much different position on a person's right to privacy on the internet. The European Union has legislation in place to control what companies can legally do with personal information that you provide. The United States is much more like the wild west in terms of what companies can do with your data. And then there are repressive governments in parts of the wold that spy on internet traffic to jail and torture people who engage in internet activities that they do not approve of.

Perhaps it comes down to the question "Is privacy a basic human right that all people, no matter where they live, should have?" If so, that an answer like "if you want rights, don't be born in a country with a government that tramples rights" is not an acceptable answer. In other words it is the responsibility of government to protect the rights of its citizens.

So ask the person if they believe that control of their personal data is a right or is personal data merely a commodity to be bought and sold in the open market by large companies like Google and Apple?

  • +1 for not being born on the Earth. But...If I directly contest a ToS in communication with a representative of that company, I have no wish to make insults and allegations (about my private data being sold) I cannot prove. There is no point in asking a representative about his personal beliefs. And the question is not about any concrete issues (like privacy or storage of passwords without encrypting) but rather more general, rather conceptual issues, issues, the main of which is the ubiquitously declared right to change ToSes unilaterally, retroactively and at any time (amongst others) Feb 26, 2012 at 5:29
  • 4
    @WebMAOhist You can prove sale of your personal details, in some cases. I recall recently that Richi Jennings wrote a blog in ComputerWorld about how he easily narrowed down the source of some spam e-mails by using per-service e-mail aliases when he registers on websites. blogs.computerworld.com/19197/…
    – Iszi
    Feb 26, 2012 at 5:41
  • 1
    Iszi - right on! Also take a look at: theverge.com/2012/2/14/2798008/…
    – JonnyBoats
    Feb 26, 2012 at 15:45
  • I updated my question with "Update (28 Febr 2012)" Feb 28, 2012 at 10:15
  • Not sure if this helps, but here (EU) there are quite some legal borders to ToS'es, which are also enforced. For example, just changing a ToS without any notification of the user and request of the user's consent is not allowed. It may not be too general, e.g. it can say "we will share your email with Company Z" but not "with carefully selected marketeers". Thus, as a consumer you probably have a lot of rights for which you may have to stand, if you want to effectuate them.
    – Legolas
    Feb 29, 2012 at 7:21

This is really simple, but I don't think you'll like the answer:

If a ToS is inadequate for you you have two options

  • do not use the service
  • request they change the ToS - End of story

If it is actually illegal you have three options

  • do not use the services
  • request they change the ToS
  • start legal action

There is nothing you can do to refute an answer from a provider telling you not to use the service. Excluding a small number of exceptions, they have no mandatory requirement to take you on as a customer, so if you want to use their service it's entirely up to you.


There is another issue - you state that Google, Facebook and Automatic have illegal Terms of Service. While many object to certain privacy provisions in them, I don't think you are in a position to state their illegality, either in your own jurisdiction or others. They are heavily scrutinised by legal teams the world over, which does on occasion force changes, but unless you are a lawyer, it is not your place to decide this.

I think some of the sharing of private date you are complaining about has nothing to do with Terms of Service, but is actually done despite the terms of service. Sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately in order to generate revenue.

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