Living in EULA land

The EULA (End User License Agreement) is encountered by all of us when we install a piece of software on our computer, but for most people it passes by so quickly that we don’t even recognize that we have seen it. It’s that box where you must check “I agree” before continuing through the installation. If you don’t click it, you can’t go forward. So most people, it appears, just click it and move on.

There is another option, however.

You can pause and scroll through it and read what it says. I know that a high percentage of the verbiage is dense legalese that is difficult to understand and mind-numbingly dry. There are, however, two sections of it to examine closely before agreeing to it.

The first is the description of what information the software will gather about you and how that information will be used. In that section, look for the term “third parties,” and pay particular attention to what is said about them. And the second is any reference the EULA makes to the privacy policy of the software company, which often appears as a link to a more in-depth explanation of what that privacy policy is. If only a small percentage of people read the EULA, still fewer of them ever follow the links in it to more in-depth explanations.

Why, you may ask, does all of this matter?

The answer is that by blindly agreeing to the EULA, you may be giving that software company the right to install other third party software along with the software you intend to install, and in doing so, in some cases you are giving permission to install spyware.

Even if no spyware is involved, there are some problems with EULAs, as has been pointed out by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in this User’s Guide to EULAs. I found it interesting to read this document, and by doing so I learned some things I didn’t know. It might be worth your time to read it when you have a moment. The better informed you are about such things, the better decisions you’ll make about what to install on your computer.

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