The risk of clicking “I Agree” as a reflex

Without a doubt, clicking “I agree” has become a reflex on the Web. Call them what you want: Terms & Conditions (T&Cs), Terms of Use (ToU), Terms of Service (ToS), End User License Agreement (EULA) or their close cousin “Privacy Policy”; we are constantly confronted with these endless and unreadable pages that we must agree to, in order to access anything online.

As you might expect, a study published by The University of Chicago Press confirms that 99.8%  of people avoid reading these agreements.

 Several Youtubers have also demonstrated, through hidden cameras, the ease with which people tick a box and consent to everything and anything, as can be seen in this example.

On the other hand, the concern of internet users is increasing about their private data. Numerous scandals that have made headlines recently have certainly contributed to this feeling. In Canada, for example, 92% of the population expresses concern for the protection of their privacy.

Figure 3: Concern about protection of personal privacy

However, this concern seems to dissipate when the time comes to suddenly read the 2,500 words that make up privacy policies on average.

Time to pay the bill…

Although there are many examples (Link to funny examples) of absurd and (sometimes) funny clauses, they mainly serve to demonstrate the “potential” dangers of not reading the T & Cs. It is however important to realize that they truly have a contractual value. This is where the commitments that the user makes by accepting them are listed, in other words, the real cost of the service or product that he plans on using. It is therefore essential to understand them.

Top 3 traps to watch for

What are the real risks associated with these infamous Terms & Conditions?

1. Intellectual property / copyright

What happens to the content you submit to the platform?

Why is that important? Let’s take a specific case: 

Not long ago, the FaceApp application hit the headlines. In just a few days, more than 150 million people used this apparently fun product to turn faces 20 years older. 

It took weeks before someone looked at the Terms of Use and realize that users were consenting to “a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your user content in any format and channel known or later developed without any compensation from you. “

In other words, your photo belongs to them and there is nothing you can do about it. FaceApp can, in theory, decide to resell your photo for an embarrassing ad, which might remind you of an episode from the series Friends.

More seriously, FaceApp will probably use it to train a facial recognition algorithm, which may then be sold to the army (Drone-killer?) or to an intelligence service. Not exactly what you had in mind when you used the app, but exactly what you signed up for!

We don’t mean to scare you, but Instagram has a similar type of license …

2. Collecting and sharing personal data

This is probably the most well-known scandal about privacy agreements. Facebook–Cambridge Analytica was a major political issue in early 2018 when it became public that millions of Facebook profiles were used to gather personal data without consent. This helped raise awareness about this issue. Consequently, it is important to check what data does the service collects, but mainly who is it sharing it with?

This is one of the first signs that allows you to identify the intentions of the service for which you are about to register.

Your name, first name, date of birth, postal address, email address, telephone number, credit card number … are worth gold for advertisers, but even more for fraudsters!

The more you disclose this information to this type of business which then shares it with third parties, the more you are at risk of a fraudster getting their hands on it.

3. Financial penalties

If you are not convinced by the first 2 points, here is one that leaves no one indifferent: the wallet!

Many online services add financial penalties associated with certain behaviors. Again, let’s take a concrete example: Turo, the “Airbnb for your automobile”.

A careful reading of the Terms and Conditions could spare you several expenses:

  • In the event of a conflict, it will cost you $ 200 in “filing fees”.
  • If unfortunately the car was stolen during your rental, you will be liable for an administrative fee of $ 500.
  • If you use the platform to find a vehicle, and then deal directly with the owner afterwards, you will have to pay $ 5,500 in compensation to Turo.

Want another example? Security company Sophos recently published an article explaining how unscrupulous developers billed hundreds of dollars for very basic applications (dubbed Fleeceware). 

LThe user installs an application which appears to him “free”, only here, the T&Cs specify that the app is only free for a period of 3 days, then billable up to $ 240 per year thereafter (charged on your credit card immediately).

Do you see any other other important points in the T&Cs? Feel free to contact us to share your recommendations. 

How can you protect yourself?

To quote the infomercials – “there has to be a better way! “

We started using the latest breakthroughs in a field of Artificial Intelligence called Natural Language Processing (NLP)  and developed an algorithm that can identify key points in the Terms & Conditions and privacy policies.

For simplicity, we have packaged it as a Chrome extension which automatically detects when you have to click on “I Agree” and will show you the important things to know first. 

Be smart and protect yourself!

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