When Edward Snowden showed to the world how interested the NSA was in the life of everyday people, people were outraged. By the same token, many people shared their frustration on Facebook, Google, Linkedin and other places where every single day their information is being shared for free. The question that remains to be asked is if this is simply a lack of knowledge or hypocrisy? Sadly, it looks like it’s the first option.
We are living in a golden age for private investigators. Their jobs have never been easier. Many people, on a daily basis, share their thoughts, dreams, expectations and of course pictures and videoclips on the internet. They are using platforms like Messenger, Snapchat, What’s App and Skype to talk about things they don’t want others to know. All these people live in the fantasy that they are safe. Some of them happen to be more aware than others, but they feed themselves with illusions. Yes – illusions. In 2011, Facebook revealed that every day, “only .06%” of Facebook’s 1 billion logins are compromised. Or, to put it another way, 600,000 logins per day are compromised [source: Techcrunch]. Any questions?
We are also living in even greatest time for advertisers (really, Adblocks won’t change anything here). With so many data around they can target their advertisements more and more precisely. Ok, so perhaps it’s not the worst thing. Sometimes it is even an advantage, especially when I actually see an ad of something I need. Sure, there are some dangers here as well, but in the scope of all data risk, we can view this as a benefit. Just a sidenote; many years ago I predicted that one day you will do a Google search for some book, and once you leave your home perhaps passing by a bookstore you will get add saying – Hi Marek, you were looking for the book “X”, we have it, and you are just around the corner, come in and purchase it, we have a special limited offer with a 15% discount. Nowadays reality is just a step behind imagination.
We are also living in times of constant surveillance, however, and in most cases, we are absolutely ok with it. Furthermore, to companies we just say, yes, you can take all my data and do whatever you want with it, but that would never be the case with government agencies. By the way, do you remember the first time you marked yes, I have read ToS and agreed, then clicked the button? It was the day when you said goodbye to your privacy. I am not the exception; I did the same, and I don’t remember that first time I clicked yes.
A few years ago I had an idea to create a website that explained to people the Terms of Service. I believe it’s still a good idea and in the coming years, it will be needed even more.
It’s very likely that you will read this article on your cell, and I have no doubts that you have at least one smartphone. Your smartphone runs thanks to an OS, whether it might be Apple’s iOS (you can feel a little bit safer) or Google’s Android (it’s very likely that you don’t have a latest version installed). There are some applications on your smartphone that stay active all day long and all night as well. You probably have Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, What’s App, Snapchat or maybe even Swarm. All these applications retrieve data from your smartphone and send them out. You allow them to do it. With every account created, with every application installation, anytime you take your mobile anywhere – you are giving up a part of your privacy. But even if you don’t have some of these applications, your smartphone is equipped with GPS. It’s enough to know where you spend days and nights (especially the latter might be useful in divorce cases.)
You know what the biggest lie on the internet is? It’s a short sentence “I read the terms and conditions”. As a matter of fact, probably 99% of people don’t read over the agreement. I remember that one company decided to check how many people actually read the terms and agreements; they put some clause inside the language that if you get to a certain point, you would be awarded $10000. I am sure you can guess on your own how many people won that prize. Not one single person asked for the free money.
Another company, GameStation carried out a different experiment. They put in the terms of service paragraph in that by agreeing to the terms you were giving away your soul. 7500 customers freely gave up their souls without the blink of an eye.
“I have read and agreed to the Terms” – is the biggest lie on the web. [source: https://tosdr.org/]
The University of Carnegie Mellon conducted an investigation where it was discovered that the average American has a contract with 1462 Terms of Service yearly. An average ToS has 2518 words. Reading all of these is possible only if you spend eight hours per day during 78 days. Who is willing to do that? Lawyers may be amongst the very few who are interested in privacy. All of the rest pass.
Thus, most the people don’t read ToS and most individuals who use smartphones and applications are giving their information freely to large enterprises. After Edward Snowden, many people were up and arms. Some people are even furious with companies that do audience research on the internet. Funny?
Not at all. Try this small exercise. Choose any of Terms of Service of any website you’re visiting the read what you agree to. How do you feel now? I bet you are not laughing.
Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.