Updates to legal documents

People often forward me emails they’ve received from companies about updates to terms of service, privacy policies or similarly-titled documents. The question is usually whether they need to ‘do’ anything.

If you’ve received such a message, the first thing to know is that the company has most likely sent it to all its customers. It’s not addressed to you specifically.

The second thing is that the company probably hasn’t sent it because they think you’ll love reading it, but in order to comply with laws, regulations or simply best practice. The document being updated is usually a legal document which, strictly speaking, forms part of a contract you agreed to when you started dealing with the company or service.

The third thing is that more often than not, no action is required. Instead, the message will tell you that if you don’t agree to the changes, you have the option to stop using the service. By doing nothing, you imply that you agree — which realistically is your only choice, unless you are prepared to take your business elsewhere.

Finally, consider that this isn’t really a computer support issue. Banks, insurance companies and all manner of other organisations routinely communicate legal updates to their customers.

Ultimately, asking me what to do is a question I can only answer by saying: read the message and make an informed choice.