Friday, March 29, 2013

Guest Post: A rant on Storify TOS

The following is a guest post by Jeff Lyons, a current student in my IDC4U class.

Recently, I was tasked with creating a page with “Storify” for a school assignment. Now, I'm always leery of signing up for new websites or services, as I highly value both my security and the amount of space in my inbox. Nevertheless, I signed up with Storify, handing out my email as requested, and began amassing the links and information required for my topic, despite the difficulties involved (my topic was DRM and Piracy in games, and the school board blocks most gaming news websites and blogs.) Everything was going along fine, until I signed off for the day and returned the next. When I went to edit and format my page, I was greeted with this:

Connect with my Twitter account? You mean the one I don't have? The one you never mentioned before? Well that's just...brilliant. I hope the dripping sarcasm is oozing through your monitor right now.

I realize, I'm the last of a dying breed, that most people have Twitter these days, and spend hours on end tweeting to their hearts content. Myself, I don't see the need. I'm just one person. I don't have news or updates to post concerning a product I'm working on. I don't need to inform people of what towns I'll be performing in, what times, and how much a T-shirt will cost. And I certainly don't have a group of staffers crafting my next political barb. If I want to stay in contact with those close to me, I'll contact them over Facebook, or give them a call, or gasp have a face-to-face conversation with them. But I digress. This isn't about me not needing to use Twitter. This is about Storify springing it on me. Not once in the account creation process, or in the terms of use, does it mention Twitter. Not once. And if it requires something, surely it should notify the user of that beforehand, shouldn't it? If I go out to buy a game, I can look up the minimum system requirements before forking over $60 (an overly high price, but that's for another day) for a game my computer can't run. If it's multiplayer, or runs on a content-delivery system such as Steam, or Origin, it'll mention that an internet connection is required, and that an account on those services is as well, for the latter.
So why are they telling me after I start using Storify that I need to also give them my Twitter information? Why do they require it in the first place? Is Twitter integration mandatory? Would they, if I made a Twitter account for them, tell me to give them my Facebook username and password at a later date? (You can choose to use your Facebook or Twitter accounts to sign up for Storify, but I prefer to keep my educational, work, and social lives as separate as humanly possible) And it's not just because I don't have or want a Twitter account. It's not just because they require one for use.

It's because they spring it on you like this. “Oh hi, there! We see you're enjoying our product! Now, if you want to continue using it, fork over your info!” I mean, if they do this now, what's next? My real-world address? My Social Insurance Number? They can't even say it was in the fine print. I checked. There is no fine print.


Okay, maybe there is. My mistake. But does it mention requiring other accounts anywhere? Nope. Not anywhere else in the TOS, either. Ctrl+F is quite useful in that regard.

You know, this is a really shady way of operating, this cutting the user off suddenly and demanding account information. It's basically holding the account for ransom. And I don't negotiate with terrorists. I guess it's a nice ironic twist that my chosen topic was DRM. Most current forms of DRM are really scummy too, and end up preventing legitimate customers from playing more than it does the pirates. Well, no matter. I have other options, other steps to complete the assignment.

And Storify? You just lost yourself a user.

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