MISC. 20


Yahoo!’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy govern the use of services like Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Groups and Flickr. There are some very sensible limits on what Yahoo! can do with your content and Yahoo! is therefore one of the highest scoring companies in our Data Use category. However, the company needs to be more transparent about disclosing personal information to government.

Data Use

When you post content on a Yahoo! service, the rights that you grant Yahoo! depend on the type of content.

Multimedia content

For “photos, graphics, audio or video” (which would include any photos you upload to Flickr), Yahoo! can use, modify, adapt and display your content but “solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted”. This limitation means that Yahoo! can’t use your content in a way that is unrelated to the purpose for which you provided it. There are similar restrictions in Microsoft’s and Google’s terms of service (although Google can use your content for all of its services, not only for the particular purpose for which you provided it). The license also ends as soon as you remove your content.

Other content

However, for content other than “photos, graphics, audio or video”, these limitations do not apply. Yahoo! can use your content for any purpose. These rights are sublicensable (meaning that Yahoo! could give or sell your content to third parties) and irrevocable (meaning that even if you delete the content or close your account, Yahoo! can still use it). We would like to see the narrower “photos, graphics, audio or video” license apply across the board. It is unclear why, for example, Yahoo! should have much more extensive rights to comments you post to a discussion forum on Flickr than to photos or videos that you upload.

SCORE: 18 / 25
  • Limited rights granted to Yahoo! for photos, audio and videos that you submit
  • Extensive rights granted for other submissions

Data Disclosure

Yahoo! can disclose information about you in three situations: (1) to respond to legal process, (2) to enforce the terms of service, (3) to respond to claims that you have violated the rights of third parties, (4) to respond to your customer service requests, and (5) to “protect the rights, property or personal safety of Yahoo!, its users and the public”. Although some of this language is unnecessarily broad, this provision is not unusual. Most of the companies surveyed have similar disclosure rights.

Yahoo! does not commit to telling users when the government is requesting information about them. It also does not publish any statistics about government requests. However, the EFF has praised Yahoo! for resisting a government request to reveal the contents of a Yahoo! Mail account.

SCORE: 16 / 25
  • Yahoo! can share your data with third parties
  • Yahoo! is not transparent about government data requests

Amendment & Termination

The Yahoo! Terms of Service can be updated at any time without notifying users. Yahoo! also has broad discretion with respect to termination. Although it must have cause (i.e., a reason) to terminate your account, and although it lists a number of grounds for termination (such as violating the Terms of Service and extended periods of inactivity), the list is not exhaustive.

SCORE: 12 / 25
  • Yahoo! has broad amendment and termination rights


We did not find any other surprising or concerning provisions.

SCORE: 20 / 25