Terms and Conditions: the blurred lines of privacy in the media space

Terms and conditions, ah the annoying gateway between you and the new Snapchat update. While annoying, opens to the magic word, “Accept”, relieving itself of multiple court cases, and stripping you of the power that is privacy (data).

To read the terms and conditions would be…

1. Time consuming. Not necessarily a waste of time, but a time waster. As an example, Apple’s Terms and Conditions, are over 20,000 words, how many of you have read more than 50 of them?


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And 2. A confusing bunch of vague legal jargon. Just typing that sentence was confusing, let alone the WordPress Terms and Conditions I had to agree to in order to type it.


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Whether we can blame it on our laziness or our inability to understand the collection of words they refer to as T & C’s, there is a need for change. Despite our data ever increasing in value, our cognitive dissonance pushes us to click that ‘Accept’, leading us to plead ignorance to the Big Bad World and hand over our valuable data.

In mid 2016, a study investigated policy reading behaviour by monitoring participant’s attention to the terms and conditions of a fictitious social network. It found that when given the option to skip the privacy policy, 73% of participants skipped, by following the familiar “By continuing you are agreeing to _________’s Terms and Conditions”. Of those that did “read” the policy, only an average of 73 seconds was spent on them. The ‘gotcha’ clauses were used to assess ignoring behaviour, and by signing up to the program, participants were signing up to give their data to the National Security Agency (a common part of many terms and conditions, often written in a broader sense, for example Twitter which allows them to give away any information deemed necessary for legal reasons). Not only this, but also agreeing to give their first born child to the social media platform!

The solution is not as easy as not using the program (that requires you to accept their Terms and Conditions). What we need is to provide an alternate for the modern day world. They should be easy to understand, and clearly articulate the use of our data.

Parks and Recreation’s Ben sums up this in a short and sweet rant…

“The internet is no longer optional; it’s a necessity for everyone. And I think that you do know that data-mining isn’t chill because you stuck it into the 27th update of a 500-page user agreement. A person should not have to have an advanced law degree to avoid being taken advantage of by a multibillion-dollar company. You should be upfront about what you’re doing and allow people the ability to opt out.” Read more about the amazingness of Parks and Recreation and their perspective on this here.

In an ever-increasing world of media spaces, we need to be aware of what we are signing up to. This information needs to be accessible, and not involve us signing our life away.



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