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An acceptable use policy (AUP) is a document that outlines a set of rules to be followed by users or customers of a set of computing resources, which could be a computer network, website or large computer system. An AUP clearly states what the user is and is not allowed to do with the these resources.
An AUP is very similar to the ubiquitous terms and conditions or end-user license agreements (EULA) found on almost all software applications. The main difference is that an AUP covers the use of a much larger shared computing resource, such as an LAN or website, as opposed to a single software item. One consequence of sharing is that an AUP typically goes into detail about etiquette and respect for fellow users of the resource, which is not applicable for single-user software applications.
AUPs are mostly used by organizations deploying networks for internal use, such as commercial corporations, schools and universities. They are also frequently employed by websites to inform site visitors and customers about what is allowed on the site. For example, some companies do not allow employees to use the corporate LAN after-hours for activities (such as games) that don't provide value to the company. This must be clearly spelled out to the employees.
Users may only glance through AUPs or not read them at all. Often, this happens because AUPs use standard do's and don'ts and may be written in a way that is hard to read and understand. For the user, this is a mistake because he or she may never know about any unusual requirements. For example, some social networking sites may not allow discussions that disparage or offend certain religious, racial or political groups.
The majority of AUPs also spell out the consequences of breaching the laid-down regulations. These range from warning users to disabling user accounts to extreme measures such as legal action.