By Crystal Johnston - January 28, 2020
National Data Privacy day is today, so how much data are you sharing?
We have all done it, downloaded a new operating system for our phone, or did an update to our computer, and up pops the all too familiar “Agree to the Terms and Conditions.” We naturally just scroll to the bottom and click “Agree.”
Well, do you really know what we are agreeing to?
To demonstrate just how many people seem to glance over the “T&C”, a few organizations took it upon themselves to add to their T&C some interesting terms that different people would agree to. Purple, a Wi-Fi provider in the UK, added to their T&C that agreeing to their terms meant that you would be responsible for over 1,000 HOURS of community service. The “Community Service Clause” within the T&C only had one person, out of over 22,000 people, come forward stating that they read the “Community Service Clause,” and that person actually received a reward for doing so.
Will Purple hold over 22,000 people accountable for their agreed upon 1,000 hours of community service? Most likely not, but what Purple did do is make people aware of how important it is that not only you understand what you are agreeing to, but how your data may be used.
Let’s dive in a bit further.
By hitting “Agree” you are signing your electronic name to a site, and therefore signing over your agreeance to them to use your data in ways they deem fit. This could be sharing your data with 3rd parties (advertising and spam calls), using your data for research, retargeting your data (digital ads), or even selling your data (IP Address, phone number, email, surfing behaviors.) Not to mention, you could be like a group of college kinds in 2016 who registered for a fake social media platformed called NameDrop. These students unknowingly authorized NameDrop to obtain their first-born child, as well as authorizing NameDrop to forward all personal information to the National Security Agency.
Now, if you are anything like me, you are thinking to yourself “I still do not want to go over pages and PAGES of T&C. I don’t have the time, nor can I understand half the crap they are talking about. Well, there’s a way that you can at least somewhat get through the endless jumbled words of the T&C.
When it pops up, just hit “Ctrl+F”, this kicks off the “find” feature, or just skim the document like the good ole days. Look for terms that include: Agree, Submit, Acknowledge, Permission, Accept, Authorize, Retain, Retention, and Third Party. These terms do not tackle all areas of the T&C but is it at least a bit better than just clicking “agree” and hoping you didn’t just give up your first born.
For another added measure, you can use a browser plugin that will scan a T&C and let you know its graded level of issue (A-F.) ToS;DR or “Terms of Service; Did not Read” is a plugin that can assist with going through the T&C to detect what risks may be involved in clicking the “I Acknowledge” button. Is it fool proof? No, but it is just one more tool to help keep your data safe with YOU.
Understanding what data we are sharing not only benefits our own selves, but it can help those around us that are not as computer savvy, and who trust what the web has to say. When a new T&C comes through, or an update, I make sure to get my parents on the phone so that they can be walked through exactly what they are signing up for. The last thing I would ever want is to see is individuals who do not know about these “agreements” sign away their information to be used in anyway deemed fit.
While surfing the web, make sure you have your life vest on and are watching for sharks!