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Bizarre Virgin Mobile Terms and Conditions of Service

25 November 2010 981 views No Comment

Occasionally I feel that I really must address my insomnia by reading the mounds of legalese shoved in my face every time I want to do anything in this modern society of ours. This is particularly important where money is involved, of course, which means all of the mindless EULAs (end user licence agreements) that I’m presented with when installing software generally get skipped. Fortunately I have an old computer that I try out new software on first, so if I missed the part in an EULA that says the software manufacturer can install viruses on my computer, it’s not a big deal because the old computer is just for testing, doesn’t contain any sensitive or important data, and can be reformatted at a moment’s notice without any hesitation.

Anyway, back to legal agreements involving money. Back in 2007 I bought a Virgin Mobile Canada cell phone. I stopped using their service a few months later because I cancelled my planned move to the new area code where I got the phone, and I gave the phone to a friend. At the time I noticed some rather bizarre wording in their “Terms and Conditions of Service”. However, as we all know, you either bend over and agree, or go and live in a cave.

Fast forward a couple of years and I bought a cell phone as a present for someone, and I decided to go with Virgin again. Another year later and I’m again looking at the “Terms and Conditions of Service”. The bizarre wording has survived at least three years, unchallenged (I assume) by anyone with the time, interest and money to pursue what surely must be a serious privacy issue. (I have the interest, but neither the time nor the money.)

Here’s the bizarre wording (which I have truncated and annotated), from the “About Content Provided By You” section:

Any Content transmitted through or to the Services by you will be considered non-confidential and non-proprietary. [Fair enough, I suppose. This is a cover-your-arse sentence in case someone manages to intercept your “content”. If I was a government spy, I’m sure my employer would give me a super secret phone that would ensure that my “content” remained confidential.] … Virgin Mobile, its Suppliers and designees will be free to copy, disclose, distribute, incorporate and otherwise use the Content and all data, images, sounds, text, and other things embodied therein for any and all commercial or non-commercial purposes. [Whoa! Seriously?! So those naked pics I sent my girlfriend are fair game, and I can expect to see them published by Virgin in a glossy magazine at some point? And what about those steamy phone conversations when I’m away from home? Broadcast on radio and television?!] You agree to grant to Virgin Mobile a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license, with the right to sublicense, reproduce, distribute, transmit, create derivative works of, or publicly display any Content submitted, transmitted or posted by you through or on the Services. [Hey, if you’re going to make me a reluctant porn star, at least cough up some of the dough you’ll be making off of me!]

Now, I think it’s safe for any reasonable person to assume that no sane company is going to start trawling though billions of their customers’ inane text messages — and, I might add, the “content” sent to the “services” by non-customers who have not consented to these terms — collecting the more salacious ones to make into a coffee table book. However, if Virgin were to go insane and do so, guess what? You (and I) agreed to it!

Welcome to the modern, civilised world.

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