Information for users on the use of externally hosted web service providers

It is essential that you read and understand the following information. If you have any questions about signing up for an externally hosted web service provider, then you must contact the PhD Academic and Research Skills Advisor BEFORE signing up.

This site is provided by an externally hosted web service (i.e., a service that is not supplied by the University). There are some things you need to know about such services and how they work so that you can make informed decisions about the type and amount of information that you supply to any particular service.

This information will also be presented at an in-class briefing, where you will be free to raise any questions or concerns. If you do not understand anything that comes below, please see the unit convenor before you sign up for the service. Here are some things you need to know and understand:
1. Signup
  1. You may be asked to sign up for externally hosted web services as part of the unit syllabus. In this document, such services are referred to both as a ‘service’ or ‘service provider.’
  2. When you sign up for a service, you will be entering into an individual agreement with that service provider, and not with the University. You should read carefully and understand the service provider’s Terms of Service before you sign up. You must decide the extent to which you establish your own relationship with the service provider, and you may choose to either disclose or withhold whatever information you wish, or not sign up at all.
2. Offensive material
  1. Because you are registering directly with a service, you are personally responsible and legally liable for any material you post on the site. Any material that is offensive, defamatory, hateful, breaches copyright, or discloses personal information about others without their permission that is made under your login will be attributed to you.
  2. You must not post or upload material that brings either you or the University into disrepute, or that causes offence.
3. Information you provide to a service provider
  1. The University has no control over a service provider, or how a service provider uses the data it gathers.
  2. Information you provide to a service provider may include your name and date of birth.
  3. You should be careful about the information you disclose to a service provider. For the purposes of using a service in the unit, you should not provide information that reveals personal details about you, such as your address, postcode, telephone numbers, ethnicity, occupation, hobbies, or similar information.
  4. Information you provide to a service provider will include any material you generate and upload or post as part of the unit’s day-to-day workings.
  5. Your information may be viewable to anyone on the internet. If a site has been set to be invisible to search engines, it may nevertheless be visible to visitors who have a direct link to the site.
  6. Because your work may be publicly displayed, you will be exposing your work to being stolen, plagiarised, or ‘ripped off’ by others. Even though with most services you retain copyright over your material (see Section 4), this does not stop disreputable persons from taking your work and using or displaying it on their own website (or in any other form) unacknowledged.
  7. You must never provide information to a service about other people without their express consent.
  8. You must never upload database files that contain people’s names and addresses to a service.
  9. If you believe that a classmate has posted something that is offensive, defamatory, hateful, breaches copyright, discloses personal information about you, or is cause for other concern, then you must notify the unit convenor immediately.
  10. If the service has been used for assessment purposes, then upon completion of the unit, your work will be kept for a minimum period in order to satisfy University regulations, procedures and policies. If you wish to add to or develop your site after the assessment due date, you must provide the unit convenor with a dated electronic backup of the site on the due date. If you do this, you may then continue to work on your site upon completion of the course. If you do not do this, you may not work on your site until after the prescribed period unless a dated ‘restore to previous version’ function is available on the site.
4. Copyright, intellectual property and privacy (specific to the service you are signing up with)
  1. Under the Terms of Service or similar, you should retain the copyright to any material that you create. However, because a service is hosting what you create, the service will probably require a licence to publicly display, reproduce, translate, publish, and distribute your work. This means that you would not be able to sue the service for displaying, reproducing, translating, pubishing, distributing, etc., material to which you hold the copyright. Check the Terms of Service with the service you are signing up for full details. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the unit convenor before you sign up.
  2. Under the Terms of Service or similar, you should retain any intellectual property rights you own in the material you supply to a service. Check the Terms of Service with the service you are signing up for full details for full details. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the unit convenor before you sign up.
  3. Under the Terms of Service or similar, your work may be sub-lisensed under a Creative Commons licence. Creative Commons is a way of distributing your work on the internet more easily. Creative Commons lets you change your copyright from ‘All rights reserved’ to ‘Some rights reserved.’ Depending on the type of Creative Commons licence your work is distributed under, this may mean that other people may share your work as long as they attribute the work to you, do not use the work for commercial purposes, and agree to share your work under the same licence. For more information about Creative Commons, visit the Creative Commons website for more information: http://creativecommons.org/. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the unit convenor before you sign up.
  4. Under a service’s Privacy Policy, your information may be accessed by a third party under the following conditions or similar: for auditing, research and analysis in order to maintain, protect and improve the services; for ensuring the technical functioning of the network; or developing new services. Check the service’s Privacy Policy for full details. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the unit convenor before you sign up.
5. Cookies, monitoring, and emails
  1. Most websites collect ‘cookies,’ small packets of data that are used again when you login to that site. Cookies are what enable a website to track your user details so that your preferences are remembered on the site, meaning that you don’t have to enter the same information over and over again. Cookies are not viruses or worms, do not generate spam or popups, and are not used for advertising. However, some internet users would prefer it if a ‘cookie trail’ weren’t left behind every time they visit a website, so different internet browsers let you turn off cookies so that such a trail is not laid down. If you don’t want cookies to track your preferences, you will need to set your browser’s privacy settings, options or preferences to turn off cookies. If you need more information about cookies, go to Wikipedia.org and search for ‘HTTP cookie.’
  2. When you sign up for a service you may receive marketing email messages in your inbox. To turn off these messages, visit your account or profile settings or preferences, navigate your way to ‘email notifications’ or similar and switch them off.
  3. Search engines may find, index and cache the openly accessible information you provide to a service.
6. Responsibility for your work
  1. You are responsible for anything that occurs under your account login.
  2. If a service is being used for assessment purposes, then you are responsible for backing up your work. You should back up your work on a regular basis, whenever you make significant additions, contributions or alterations to the site, and at the point where you submit the work for assessment. In fact, it is good practice to back up your work on any site, even it it is not being assessed.
  3. If a service is being used for assessment purposes, your work will be date stamped, meaning that any changes made to your site after the due date will be noted. You are responsible for ensuring that your account’s timezone is correct.
  4. Work generated under any particular login will be attributed to that login. For example, if you are working with another student and your work appears under that student’s login, then you will not be recognised as the author of that work. You need to make sure that your work appears under your own login. You cannot claim to be the author of work done under another student’s login.
7. Site administrator’s notes
On our part, we have made every effort to choose service providers that
  1. We believe provide fair Terms of Service that are likely to be acceptable to you. This means that we have tried where possible to choose service providers that let you retain both copyright and rights to your intellectual property. We have tried where possible to choose service providers that give you a large degree of control over how much and what type of your personal information is displayed.
  2. Allow you to backup your material to your hard-drive.
  3. Are normally stable, available, reliable, have a good reputation and that have strong online communities built around them.

This information was developed using the University of Edinburgh’s Guidelines for Using External Web 2.0 Services