Terms and Conditions May Apply review: we all agreed to PRISM

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Terms and Conditions May Apply

Nobody reads the terms-and-conditions of Web sites. They’re designed to discourage us from doing so… and there’s a reason why.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Huh. You know that PRISM thing that has gotten Edward Snowden into so much trouble for revealing, the NSA program that scoops up all of our private info for whatever purposes the federal government wants it for? Turns out we’ve all signed up for it. Yup. Every time we click on some variation of “I agree to this site’s terms and conditions” — and let us all admit that we don’t read those things; they’re designed to discourage it — we are basically giving away our right to prevent Uncle Sam from collating and triangulating the hell out of our lives. And that applies whether you live in the U.S. or not. If you use Facebook, or Amazon, or any of Google’s services, or lots of other sites online that appear to be free, you’re actually paying for your use of them with your personal information, with no guarantees that it won’t be handed right over to the NSA and the FBI and the CIA and whoever else wants it. Indeed, the T&Cs now pretty much promise they will share your info. Even if you think you’re already aware of this and you’re fine with it, documentarian Cullen Hoback (who made the intriguing doc Monster Camp) is here to show you that you don’t know the depths of it, and why you probably shouldn’t be fine with it. Because you don’t necessarily know what you might want to hide until it comes back to bite you, quite probably unfairly, on the ass. Because things like Minority Report’s precrime is already happening, with our leaders acting to silence protest before it even happens by tracking users on social networking. (So if you’ve mentioned on, say, Facebook that you’re merely thinking about engaging in some form of legal protest, you might be preemptively arrested to stop you doing that. This isn’t scare-mongering: it’s happening now.) Oh, and if you think you’re safe by encrypting your data, Hoback shows how that’s not really gonna work, either. And unless you want to live like a hermit, using the Web is unavoidable. It didn’t used to be this way, and there’s no reason why it has to be this way: there’s no technical reason, for instance, why Facebook and Amazon cannot protect your personal information. But it’s hugely profitable for them in the commercial arena — all that aggregated consumer info makes it easier for everyone to sell to you, so everyone is happy (well, except consumers). And it’s all completely legal. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this must-see film is how it makes us understand — and I had never made this connection before — that just as it was becoming technically a snap to collect detailed information on us all as the Web exploded in the late 90s and early 2000s, 9/11 became a wonderful excuse to quash the privacy laws consumers were then demanding, via the PATRIOT Act. It’s not conspiracy theory. It’s plain and simple fact. And we should be outraged by it.

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Mon, Jul 15, 2013 1:59pm

I am one of those freaks who does read user agreements. That’s how I discovered that Java says they refuse to let their scripts be used for running an nuclear facility.

And I do not like those “agreements” at all. Especially the fact that everything defaults to arbitration (way to take away my right to a jury) and then there’s the way I’m supposed to not only indemnify them but defend them…that means I’m likely to have to pay their lawyer bills.

Tue, Jul 16, 2013 1:39pm


Though it’s been shown in court that click-to-use licences don’t actually bind the user at all.

La S, if you get into any legal trouble with Yahoo you have to travel to California to defend yourself. And people wonder why I don’t want a Yahoo ID.

reply to  RogerBW
Tue, Jul 16, 2013 1:55pm

Yeah, but you have to go to court to get the precedent used to dismiss all the b.s.

All this crap started with the credit card companies. Back in the 90’s I got a letter from American Express with my new card that said “When you start using this card, you are agreeing to the following” which included arbitration to settle any disputes that might have previously been taken to court.