The privacy paradox – click to proceed

Written by on August 26, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

pied piperIn his recent article about privacy concerns and the IoT, Eric Priezkalns quoted a report from UK Regulator Ofcom. The report discusses the privacy issue in-depth, to the point that it is easy to overlook some astonishing facts (that will also not surprise you). Only 0.05 percent of customers even look at those online legal agreements before clicking ‘agree.’ Those that do view the legalese spend less than a minute doing so, which is obviously nowhere near enough time to consider the ramifications of clicking ‘agree.’

The fact is that customers are held to ransom. If they do not agree to the terms and conditions, they cannot use the service. So, no iTunes, no Google Play, no, well, anything. Regulators hate the length and legal verbiage that lies behind the innocent button that says ‘see terms and conditions.’ But that, of course, does not stop the service providers doing exactly what they like. And exactly what their lawyers say they should do.

The terms and conditions themselves are as opaque as it is possible to be. A privacy expert at a large telco asked a US lawyer – whose speciality was designing terms and conditions – to sift through Apple’s terms and conditions and report back on the potential ramifications for customers. He could not. They were too complicated.

Is there an answer? Or are we, like lemmings, rushing blindly over the cliff and into whatever sea Google, Apple and Facebook (other companies are available) have designed for us? The lemming approach seems the most likely.

Perhaps there will be a revolt when the amount of data that is collected on us, and then used to bombard us with irrelevant adverts, exceeds our ability to ignore it. But it is doubtful. There nearly was one, a couple of years ago, when Bruce Willis famously discovered that he had not bought songs from Apple’s iTunes, he – and the rest of us – had just rented Digital Rights free versions of the songs. He actually did not sue Apple, as we thought (for about four hours). Sadly, during those four hours journalists from all over the world had gone to town with visions of Willis abseiling down lift shafts in Cupertino, firing from the hip.

It is also nice to believe that there is an opportunity here. Could some company put a nice clear notice on their app or website that sums up the terms and conditions in two sentences? Again, even if a start up did it, the moment that it grew, legal people would advise against simple statements and mutter things like ‘in the worst case scenario,’ and ‘we must protect against competition.’ Not once, presumably would a lawyer consider that putting customers off was anything but the cost of protecting their client.

The situation was summed up nicely by Niall Norton, CEO of Openet, in a recent interview with DisruptiveViews. Norton, who visits primary schools to educate kids on the online minefield, says, “I tell them that the moment they post something on the internet they stop owning it and it is there forever. I liken it to getting a tattoo. When you get it, it is really cool, but when you get to my age it about a foot wide, and grey.”

Norton believes the problem will solve itself through time. Millennials are incredibly savvy online, and will not put things online that they want to keep to themselves. Let us hope he is right.

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Alex Leslie

About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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