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Terms and Conditions of Use: Why You Absolutely Need to Read Them!

“I read it well and I agree with the terms and conditions of use.” Perhaps the most common and regular lie in the age of the Internet and new technologies. Who’s really doing it? Very few people. Yet accepting without checking is a mistake.

Our smartphones, our inbox, our applications our social media accounts… Each of these services or accessories comes with terms and conditions of use that can be between a few and several hundred pages. If reading everything every time is a real challenge, never doing it can be like a real mistake. We explain why and what are the best practices.

Texts designed to discourage you from reading them

You have to start by saying things the way they are. Terms and conditions of use are not designed for you to read. It’s quite the opposite! Just know that to read the one in Amazon’s Kindle, it takes 9 hours to measure the magnitude of the problem.

In 2013, a study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg found that it would take 76 days a year, 8 hours a day, to read the terms and conditions of use of the services they use. Suffice to say, that it is completely impossible. At the time, the CGUs of the 75 most visited sites on the web averaged 2500 words. It is safe to assume that they have increased further since then, which does not encourage reading.

All the more so because companies are doing everything they can to make them unreadable. This involves the layout and the font of writing that require you to ask for a magnifying glass but also by the jargon used. Written by battalions of lawyers, you would need the same kind of team to understand all the intricacies.

Another example is opening an app, Instagram, Snapchat or Whatsapp. You want to access it to use it when a pop-up invites you to validate the new terms and conditions of use. Pressed for time, you do it without thinking. And you won’t come back to it again… It’s much easier and quicker to confirm your agreement without taking the time to read than to open a new page and embark on a stunning quest.

Your data is an issue, protect them!

If the European Union is now attacking several web giants to modify their CGI to more effectively remove illegal content, this is far from the first time. Several years ago, the EU had already fought to make the terms and conditions of use more readable. If you are a website owner and are looking for a legit service that won’t fool your users, you should consider these terms of service generators, they are providing short legal documents that are easy to understand for your users.

Even if you don’t realize it, it’s a real contract every time you sign. A binding contract even from a legal point of view. What is the point of checking a physical gas or Internet contract ten times if it is to sign without checking another one on the Internet?

Your data, your content represents a market value for companies. But you don’t necessarily want to see them exploited. The problem is that if you don’t pay attention, you probably won’t have a say.

Awareness experiences

A perfect illustration of the problem, this experiment conducted by the British Company of Wi-Fi hotspots Purple. For two weeks, it incorporated some strange clauses into its terms and terms of use. These include cleaning animal droppings in local parks, cuddling stray dogs and cats, uncloging sewers manually, cleaning portable toilets at festivals…

The 22,000 people who have been affected should undoubtedly pay more attention in the future. But for an awareness-raising operation, how many people are not even going to think about the next time they have to tick the box?

Purple is not the first to do this experiment. Pit Stop had also done so by promising $1000 to the first one who would report. But the proliferation of these operations halfway between awareness and advertising operation has only a limited impact. Today, it’s more buzz-making operations than impactful solutions.

An extension to avoid unpleasant surprises

So how do you do it on a daily basis? First, you can try to familiarize yourself with the jargon used. This may help you avoid unpleasant surprises. If in doubt don’t agree, do a quick Internet search to see if other users are talking about the service you want to subscribe to.

Companies themselves, as long as they are not the great giants of the web, can also be a source of information. A message on social networks or a quick email to get more information can be the answer to your questions.

An interesting option is that of “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read,” a project led by hacktivists since 2012. Its objective is to establish a nomenclature of the different sites and their respect for users in terms and conditions of use. The site, which offers Chrome and Firefox extensions, offers a ranking of different services. Only problem, the database is a bit limited digitally.

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