True Tales of Tumblr's Terms : Net Studies. A Policy Primer.

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  • Hi Kirk,

    Your primer clean, straightforward and easy to follow. I think it’s good that you chose to present it in a similarly light-hearted tone to Tumblr’s own terms of service, as I think it’s likely to encourage users who see this to go and investigate the ToS themselves, as Sophie evidently has! For a primer designed to make users more aware of what they have/will sign up for, I think you’ve done a good job there.
    I particularly like that you pointed out that Tumblr isn’t particularly any cleaner in terms of how it makes its money, when compared to services like Facebook which tend to be relatively blatant with their use of your data. The idea that Tumblr doesn’t necessarily rely on advertising to generate revenue from user data is probably worth focusing on a bit more. Brown & Muchira (2004) note that data being used for outside of the setting it was gathered from is highly unlikely to affect the behaviour of individuals online, which in terms of Tumblr’s use of data means that users are probably less likely to be as cautious with their engagements on Tumblr than they would be on other services.
    Also, I noted that you did mention the fact that Tumblr states that it has a minimum user age of 13, which seems to be quite common amongst online services such as this. Do you think it would also be worth mentioning that Tumblr doesn’t distinguish between the data provided by a 13 year-old and a 25 year-old? To be clear I am not reflecting on their age limit, more so on the ethical question of whether it’s appropriate for corporations to collect vast repositories of information pertaining to young teenagers, information which, as you point out through Barbaro & Zeller (2006), isn’t always as secure or de-identified as we might think. Would it be reasonable or unrealistic to expect that there should be limits to what kind of information can be gathered about young users?
    As I mentioned before, I think one of the greatest strengths in your primer is that it is likely to encourage further investigation into the terms Tumblr provides. It also (for me at least) opens up a number of areas of thought and discussion. Nicely done!


    Barbaro, M., & Zeller, T. (2006, August 9th). A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749. New York Times.
    Brown, M., & Muchira, R. (2004). Investigating the Relationship between Internet Privacy Concern and Online Purchase Behavior. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, 591), 62-70.
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  • Hi Kirk,

    As a Tumblr user who unsurprisingly did not read the Terms of Use when I signed up, I found your Primer to be quite informative!

    Considering the design and intention of Tumblr, I have not been particularly worried or surprised about the lack of privacy in terms of the content that I post. This is especially because Tumblr’s main capability is reblogging posts, which means that potential strangers can share your content on their own blog. What is surprising and worrying to hear is the jeopardized privacy of a user’s information. Your Policy Primer has reinforced a prevalent notion that social networks and online platforms do not entirely care about individuals, as they are more interested in aggregating and repackaging user data (Stoddart, 2007). This is similar to the way Facebook operates by collecting user information to measure the effectiveness of advertising and therefore improving their service. It’s interesting that this is the case with Tumblr as it is not a platform that relies on advertising. It is therefore valuable that you have gone on to mention how Tumblr is tipped to make money from algorithms and data rather than advertising.

    My curiosity forced me to see if the Terms of Use really does include the line about how under 13-year-olds should ask for an Xbox or books. I then went on to discover that Tumblr utilizes quite a few comical one-liners in their Terms of Use. I believe this is quite an effective technique on Tumblr’s part as they have gone against the stereotype of having a Terms of Use that is boring and difficult to understand (Smithers, 2011). In comparison to other online services, Tumblr seems to have terms of use that is more appealing and simple for the users to read. For this reason, I’m glad you have informed me about the unconventional way in which it is written!

    Overall, I enjoyed your presentation and found it to be quite easy to follow along!

    Stoddart, J (2007) Privacy and Social Networks. Retrieved 9 October, 2013 from:

    Smithers, R. (2011) Terms and Conditions: Not Reading the Small Print can Mean Big Problems. The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October, 2013, from:
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  • Hi Kirk,

    Great primer! I found it really easy to follow and it really illustrated the true nature of Tumblr and content sharing sites in general. As someone who has never used Tumblr I found your primer to be quite revealing to the motivation of site owners in terms of how they use content. It seems to me that Tumblr is essentially mining information about people for its own profit and cares little for its users or the services they offer.

    Privacy should be a major concern for Tumblr users, considering their willingness to mine and store personal information including bank details and credit cards. The mining of information can be used to reveal very intimate details about a person that they did not intend to make public. This is particularly concerning because Tumblr seems to provide this data to third parties for no other reason but for profits. Tumblr’s data usage seems to be the progression from Barbaro and Zeller’s article about how searches, specifically AOL, are used to obtain personal information about people (2006). In that case the information provided reveals a wide range of interests and information but is harderto decipher how important much of this information is to the user. On Tumblr the information found pertains directly the users of Tumblr and as such is easier to decipher relevant and important information about users and follow their data trail. From a cynical perspective Tumblr seems more like a guise to gather user details more so than a social media platform.

    Great primer really shows the importance on being conscious of what information we post online and the power social media platforms have.

    p.s great primer title

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  • 1. True Tales of Tumblr’s Terms Some things you ought to know about Tumblr’s ‘Terms of Service’ [TOS] and ‘Privacy Policy’. A Policy Primer (, 2013)
  • 2. Tumblr is: • A popular blogging platform with its own social community ecosystem. • Free and easy to use • Popular. It has 141.2 million registered blogs that have aggregated 60.3 billion posts. • Engaging. It has 300m users with the total site more than 20 billion page views per month. • The most popular site among American Internet users aged 13-25 years. • Now owned by Yahoo. Purchased in May 2013 for USD$1.1 billion. (, 2013)
  • 3. Tumblr’s also: • Kind of quirky! One of it’s traditionally favorite corporate phrases is “F**k Yeah!” • Home to a large creative community. • Big on design, art and photos. • Multimedia. Multichannel. Multiplatform. You can post text, photos (even animated gifs), quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, or email. • Interconnected and searchable by tags. • Allows for sharing and interaction between its users in the form of comments, likes, shares, ‘following’ and reblogging. (, 2012) (, 2013)
  • 4. Basically, a lot of people think Tumblr is cool. Net Studies. A Policy Primer
  • 5. But, like any social network site, portal or software, in order to join Tumblr you must agree to their terms and conditions, and accept their related policies. (, 2012)
  • 6. Most people don’t bother reading these. (Leaver, 2009)
  • 7. That’s not so cool. Net Studies. A Policy Primer
  • 8. So let’s take a look! Net Studies. A Policy Primer
  • 9. Tumblr’s Terms Of Service [TOS] is contractually binding: When you agree to Tumblr’s TOS (Terms Of Service) you enter into a contract with them. The TOS binds you to all the terms and agreements it states. Tumblr reserves the right to modify or make changes their Terms Of Service. While they say they’ll to their best to let you know about the changes, they place the onus on you (the user) to continue to investigate its terms and conditions for changes. Agreeing to the TOS equates to automatic acceptance of any modified terms and conditions of the TOS in the future. (, 2012)
  • 10. You’re really only renting! Tumblr reserves the right to make changes (including restrictions) to their services, products and service offerings. They may do this at any time. They also reserve the right to suspend accounts at their discretion, based on any conflict with any aspect of their TOS. [TIP] Think of yourself as a “renter” of Tumblr’s site space, rather than an “owner”. The difference between ‘renting’ and ‘ownership’ usually (should) influence the size of your investment. (, 2012)
  • 11. Tumblr has an age restriction: To join and use Tumblr, you must be at least 13 years old. If you are 12.9 years old, you are not permitted to join or use Tumblr. In this case, Tumblr suggests you ask your parents for an Xbox or some books. Seriously! They really say this! (, 2012)
  • 12. Sub-agreement somewhat sub-visible: Under Tumblr’s TOS, they also include a sub-agreement which is part of the larger TOS. This sub-agreement is related to issues regarding privacy. To view the Privacy Policy, you need to click on a small hyperlink from a paragraph located in the main TOS page. [TIP] The Privacy Policy is where all the really gritty stuff is. It can be easy to miss it so look out! (, 2012)
  • 13. Your so vain?...... The Privacy Policy is not about you, your rights or your relationship to other users or viewers of the site. The Privacy Policy about what Tumblr does (or may do) with the information, data and actions they are able to view or glean from their service to you. [TIP] It’s not about you! Be careful what you share. ‘Big Brother’ really can watch you! (, 2012)
  • 14. Before going on, there’s something I wanted to tell you…. Net Studies. A Policy Primer.
  • 15. Congratulations! You’re part of the secret *Service! (, 2012)
  • 16. Small print. Big implications. Tumblr define the term “Service” as the entire scope of products, domains, content and services related to and its other sites. At the beginning of the Privacy Policy, Tumblr states: “When you use the Services, you are consenting to the collection, transfer, manipulation, storage, disclosure and other uses of your information as described in this Privacy Policy; please read it carefully”. [TIP] Everything regarding your information, content, obtainable online behavior and movements is up for grabs by Tumblr. (, 2012)
  • 17. Party time! If you link a Third-party service to Tumblr (like Twitter or Flipboard) Tumblr may the use information about yourself from the Third-party service to improve their own service. (, 2012)
  • 18. Capturing more than images! Tumblr may use information associated with the content that you place on the site. They give the example where if you post an image, they may obtain what camera you were using and the related exposure settings of that image. Tumblr say that they obtain such info to assist in improving it’s *Services. (, 2012)
  • 19. Call security! If you purchase a Tumblr service, Tumblr retain and store your financial information, including credit card number, name and address. [TIP] If Tumblr’s security was compromised or hacked, your financial information may be also. Tumblr does not accept responsibility for this. (, 2012)
  • 20. Watching and learning! Tumblr can view and analyze your actions and behaviors on the site. They may also aggregate this information and provide it to Third-party interests such as Quantcast to assist in obtaining and analyzing the data. Tumblr say that they do this to help improve its *Services. (, 2012)
  • 21. All this talk about Tumblr wanting to use your information, data and identity for the purpose of improving their *Service is a good thing right? A Policy Primer
  • 22. Remember its not about you! Tumblr’s term for *Services is with regard to their business and business model as well as services generally. (, 2012)
  • 23. Agreeing to the TOS and Privacy Policy for the purpose of improving their *Services really allows Tumblr to do anything with your information and data. (, 2012)
  • 24. Under Yahoo, Tumblr is tipped to make their $$$ not so much from advertising, but from algorithms and data and search software. (, 2013)
  • 25. YOUR DATA! Net Studies. A Policy Primer
  • 26. But wait… There’s more! • When you use Tumblr, Tumblr may obtain information from your web browser. This includes any cookies that may have been introduced to the browser. [And from any other site]. • Tumblr also identifies and obtains information about you from your unique IP address. • They also collect information about your geographic location, including the ability to convert your unique IP address to your geographic location. • Tumblr will automatically obtain information from your mobile device, such as your phone number. You can opt out of this situation, but not by default. (, 2012)
  • 27. So what? Net Studies. A Policy Primer
  • 28. Your whole identity could be exposed. Net Studies. A Policy Primer
  • 29. It’s happened. (Barbaro, M., & Zeller, T. (2006)
  • 30. I hope this Policy Primer has been helpful in thinking about your personal privacy and information when signing up to Tumblr. Net Stdies. A Policy Primer
  • 31. It does have its implications. Net Studies. A Policy Primer
  • 32. Thank you. Net Studies. A Policy Primer
  • 33. References: Barbaro, M. & Zeller, T. (2006). A Face IS Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749. Retrived from (2013). What is Tumblr? Retrived from Leaver. T (2009). Learning, Athenticity & Online Policy Primers. Retrieved from (2012). MARSHILL CHURCH IS NOW ON TUMBLER. Retrieved from (2012). Privacy Policy. Retrieved from (2012). Terms of Service. Retrived from Net Studies. A Policy Primer