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Web, app terms and conditions pose risks

Almost every website or app requires users to agree to its terms and conditions in order to use or access its product.

However, the average user doesn’t have the time to read the fine print or the knowledge to truly understand the terminology used. That said, by clicking “agree,” “join” or sometimes just staying on the page, we are agreeing to abide by the company’s terms of service.

A study conducted by Jonathan Obar of York University in Toronto and Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch of the University of Connecticut found that only 3 percent of people aged 18-34 read online contracts, other agreements. The researchers created a fake social networking site called Name Drop, and wrote up a terms and services agreement for users to agree to before signing up.

In the agreement, they included the requirement that users would give up their first born child and that anything they shared would be passed along to the National Security Agency. Not reading any of these conditions, an astounding 98 percent of participants agreed.

While the study showed that the majority of users click “agree” without knowing exactly what they are agreeing to, Paly junior Kai Douglas attempts to read the terms and conditions before downloading software or an app.

“I read certain sections of the terms and conditions before using most apps because of privacy concerns. There are parts that are confusing because of the way they are written. While I don’t read everything, I try and get an understanding of how invasive the app will be (such as) the company’s privacy policy and what I am liable for if I use the app.”

Junior Kai Douglas

An example of an absurd policy is giving up your right to sue whenever you use an app, meaning that in exchange for using any service you agree not to sue should a dispute arise. Nevertheless, reading the average American’s yearly digital contracts would take almost 250 hours a year, according to David Berreby of The Guardian.

Paly parent and lawyer Pascale Roy said she would not agree to the terms and conditions of a website if she only used it once.

“(Some websites) have hidden terms and conditions that give access to personal information. Because I’m a lawyer, I understand (the policies) but normal people wouldn’t.”

Pascale Roy

Roy’s statement gives a deeper understanding on how risky it can be when a user agrees to terms and conditions because most people cannot comprehend the language used.

According to Roy, even if the terms are short and concise, a regular user still may not understand the hidden meanings and risks. CEO of Spotify Daniel Ek has complied with these complaints, about the conditions being too long and confusing, as Spotify came out with the new terms and conditions recently. When worries came up about the app being able to access your camera roll, Ek clarified that the only purpose was to use the photos if you wanted to have a custom image on a playlist.

“Although there is nothing I can do to change the terms and conditions, I still read them because I can always decide not to use an app.”

Junior Kai Douglas

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