What follows is a cautionary tale, reminding users that it might be wise to read the terms presented on your computer screen before clicking “I Agree”.
A news story such as this brings to the forefront a number of issues that have economic, legal, technological, and privacy-related implications. An in-depth discussion on these topics would provide enough material for a term paper (or two), so the following will be a brief outline on the major discussion points that law makers, service providers, and users should keep in mind as they move into the future.
In a way, this approach to contracting relates to the privacy issues that these types of social media services represent to the public. Many of these services are free and for many of them, the way they obtain revenue is through the information its users provide. Facebook has a page detailing how it can use your information – for example, the service can use your personal information to determine age-appropriate or interest-directed advertising. While some may be ok with this kind of a use, there are many that worry of the implications it has on their personal information. What if it is sold to companies that abuse it? What if it is stored in an unsecured manner and accessed by hackers (as happened to a number of Sony Online Entertainment users just a few years ago)? More importantly, if users are given a click-wrap licence that sign away their rights to privacy without exceptional notice to what the information they provide can be used for, we can begin to see why some may not agree that the current system is workable.
If nothing else, stories like these should show the general populace that it is important to read and understand the terms that computer software programs and online services offer to you, and as the age-old saying goes: if it’s free, it’s probably too good to be true.
Adam is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.