Terms and Conditions: What are You Agreeing to?

We’ve all done it before, signed up for a website or downloaded an app with terms and conditions. “Do you agree?” You quickly hit agree without a second glance at the pages after pages of long terms and conditions. You just want to move on to creating your twitter account, and don’t really care about the the legal implications of that simple agreement.

images

Why would companies choose to make this agreement so hard to understand? The privacy policies are not only unnecessarily long, but also hard to read, small print in all caps. In fact. If you were to read every privacy policy of every website or app you use, it would take a whole month out of a year, non-stop reading. Even then, you most likely would not understand what the policy was saying.

Apple, who has a 56 page user agreement, knows for a fact people ignore their terms of service, and even hide messages in the print. One article of the iOS7 user agreement writes, “Oh you know what? This is page 46, nobody’s still reading this. I bet only about five people clicked to read the T&Cs in the first place-we might as well just say anything we like,” and, “We faked the moon landings. Did it in 2008, then brainwashed you all to believe it happened in 1969, just because we could.”

So what are the various End User License Agreements you agree to actually saying? By using Google Chrome, you give them the right to, “Reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services,” meaning Google keeps a file of private information on you, and what you searches are. By selling this information to third parties, Google makes a huge profit off of the information you willingly gave up for free. For example, if you google, “How to lose weight?” you may be seeing way more weight loss advertisements on the internet than you previously did, because Google sells your searches to advertisers for thousands of dollars a year.

Facebook works a similar way. By agreeing to their terms and condition, you also give Facebook the right to use your photos and videos anyway they may wish. A practice used by facebook is selling photos to advertisers who will advertise outside of the user’s location, and the user may never find out about it. You may be advertised as a, “Single mom in the Manhattan area,” and have absolutely no idea this was happening when Facebook sold your pictures without even asking.

One privacy condition that shocked the world was that of the Samsung Smart TV. Many owners of the, “smart,” television had absolutely no idea that by purchasing this object they had also agreed to let it record their living rooms and report potentially threatening information to the government. The TV records conversations and then potentially stores them on Samsung servers, oftentimes selling your conversations to advertisers. As a Samsung Tv owner feeling violated by this invasion of privacy, you cannot file lawsuit, because you agreed to it yourself, with the click of a mouse, or a signature of a pen.  

Snapchat’s user agreements do not give you the guarantee that snaps are always deleted of of their server. Some are saved into data folders, especially if they contain suspicious material. This is how three teens in Newtown CT were convicted of distribution of child pornogrpahy on January 26, 2016. The unidentified Newtown High students bought and sold nude photographs of other students and distributed them through apps such as Kik and Snapchat. Snapchat was able to recover some of these photos, which put the student into even deeper trouble than they had anticipated. Since the pictures had to travel to the snapchat database in Washington, the nude photographs had crossed multiple state borders and the case became a federal crime.

No matter how scary the consequences may be of agreeing to the EULA’s of various companies and applications, it won’t stop us. Many companies take advantage of the length of their terms to insert information people will not read anyway. It is, however, important to be informed about how much of your privacy could really be violated by something you undeniably hit, “agree,” to.