The odds of your going to court over a EULA, however, are slight. The real issue is how companies enforce them, Ezor says.
"What companies really don't want you to know is how easy it is for them to turn things off or erase them," he adds. "Think of what happened last year with the Orwell books that Amazon just erased from people's Kindles."
The Fix: Read the EULA. Does the software "phone home" to verify that you're using the product as its creator intended--and, if you're not, does it have the ability to disable the program remotely? If it doesn't, you're probably free to do as your conscience allows.
The Cyberwar Is Heating Up (and Uncle Sam Is Losing)
We may be at war on the ground in Afghanistan, but bigger battles are being waged beneath the noses of most Americans. For the past several years, U.S. government computer networks have been under siege from foreign adversaries. What the people in charge don't want you to know is that it could have been prevented.
Attacks on Department of Defense computer systems jumped 60 percent in 2009, according to a congressional committee. Last July, a botnet originating in North Korea launched a sustained DDOS attack on several U.S. government agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of the Treasury. In December, China was fingered for attacks that compromised Google last December but also targeted top government research firms, contractors, and think tanks.
Testifying before Congress in February, former national intelligence director Mike McConnell said the United States may be on the brink of an all-out cyberwar--one we are unprepared to fight.
"From the beginning the government's approach to networks was to facilitate access," says Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst for IT-Harvest and author of Surviving Cyber War. "Now that seems naïve. E-mail is its primary means of communications, and that's completely exposed. Attackers from all over are having their way with government computer systems."
The Fix: "Joe and Jane Citizen need to tell the federal government to comply with computer security standards published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)," says Stiennon. "That will get us about 90 percent closer to where we need to be, so we can start focusing on the real bad guys."
Google Could Rat You Out
How much does Google know about you? That depends on how much you rely on its cornucopia of free services. But that stored information may easily include the Websites you visit, the search terms you use, the maps you view, your contacts and calendar, your e-mail messages, your chat history, Google Voice phone records, YouTube videos and Picasa photos, the documents you store online, your blogs and advertising accounts, your status updates on Google Buzz, your location on Google Latitude, and--if you use an Android handset--all the data associated with your cell phone, too.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.