Does this sound familiar? You download a new app on your mobile device, you’re eager to use it. A screen pops up that requires you to click “I Agree”. Without even opening the Terms of Service, you quickly agree and proceed to use the service. By clicking “I Agree”, you are binding yourself to those terms. What does this mean?
Many people don’t realize that by clicking “I Agree”, you are signing a legal contract which the company can then enforce against you. In law, it is no excuse to say that you didn’t read the contract because by clicking “I Agree”, you are explicitly saying that you did read the contract.
In many Terms of Service, Agreements are clauses that are substantially unfair to you as a consumer, but you often have no say Some of these terms include trading your privacy for the use of the service including access to your microphone, camera, location, phone contacts, etc. There is no bargaining, no compromise. Tech terms are a take it or leave it a game. You can choose to use the service and agree to the terms. If you don’t agree, then you don’t have access to the tech.
When it comes to tech giants like Facebook, Google, or Apple, it almost seems like a human right to have access to their platforms. A person who chooses not to agree to Facebook’s terms is cut off from the platform where 1.73 billion people keep in touch with family, friends, organizations, support groups and get their main source of news information. A person who chooses not to agree to Google terms may be unable to access to the main source of encyclopedic, medical, and general information that connects us with our most valuable community resources. They would also not have access to the world’s largest video platform, YouTube.
As a consumer, you can be aware of this problem. Instead of being forced not to use the platform, consumers can motivate changes in laws that force tech companies to adapt their terms to protect the consumer. For example, the State of California enacted the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) which provides consumers with various privacy protections. These include the right to delete, the right to know, and the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information. It also provides the consumer with a right to sue the company that violates their rights. Laws like these fight against the “take it or leave it” power imbalances of tech contracts and more of these laws are needed to protect consumers worldwide.
How can you help? Be mindful of what you are trading off when you blindly agree to the terms. Advocate for yourself and your privacy. Educate yourself on how you can protect your own privacy. Choose platforms that value your privacy and empower you to choose how your own data is handled. At Bowhead, we protect your data through de-identification and blockchain encryption. You decide what is done with your data. You are in control of your data.
 California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), https://oag.ca.gov/privacy/ccpa