Criticism and lawsuits[edit]

AOL[edit]

In 1994, the Washington Times reported that America Online (AOL) was selling detailed personal information about its subscribers to direct marketers, without notifying or asking its subscribers; this article led to the revision of AOL's terms of service three years later.

On July 1, 1997, AOL posted revised terms service to take effect July 31, 1997, without formally notifying its users of the changes made, most notably a new policy which would grant third-party business partners, including a marketing firm, access to its members' telephone numbers. Several days before the changes were to take effect, an AOL member informed the media of the changes and the following news coverage incited a large influx of internet traffic on the AOL page which enabled users to opt out of having their names and numbers on marketing lists.[1]

Sony[edit]

In 2011 George Hotz and other members of failOverflow were sued by Sony Corporation. Sony claimed that by violating the terms of service of the PlayStation Network and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Hotz and others were committing breach of contract.[13]

Instagram[edit]

See also: Instagram § Criticism and lawsuits

On December 17, 2012, Instagram announced a change to its terms of use that caused a widespread outcry from its user base. The controversial clause stated: "you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you".

There was no apparent option to opt out of the changed terms of use.[14] The move garnered severe criticism from privacy advocates as well as consumers. After one day, Instagram apologized saying that it would remove the controversial language from its terms of use.[15] Kevin Systrom, a co-founder of Instagram, responded to the controversy, stating,

Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.[16]

Zappos[edit]

Some terms of service are worded to allow unilateral amendment, where one party can change the agreement at any time without the other party's consent. A 2012 court case In re Zappos.com, Inc., Customer Data Security Breach Litigation held that Zappos.com's terms of use, with one such clause, was unenforceable.[17]