Have you ever signed or accepted one of the many user agreements for online shopping, financial services, or social media? If so, then you may have already given up some important privacy rights without realizing it.
Almost all user agreements we sign daily give big companies the unlimited power to violate our rights, Medium writer Woodrow Hartzog revealed.
“User agreements are a legal and ethical trap, and they betray the trust of users from the very start,” Hartzog wrote. Sadly, almost everyone has to sign agreements like this to do almost everything these days. In fact, even those who try to live an off-the-grid lifestyle are in a bind. They often find themselves signing the agreements simply to shop online or get a smartphone. The gadgets and services that make it easier for many of us to live off-grid often require user agreements.
How User Agreements Require You To Sign Away Your Rights
Ironically, user agreements started as a means of protecting individual privacy back in the 1990s. The hope was that the agreements would make consumers more aware of companies’ policies and offer a degree of protection. The problem is that almost nobody reads these privacy agreements. Many of them are, in fact, deliberately written to confuse and bore you into complacency. User agreements, for the most part, have created loopholes. These loopholes have allowed Big Tech to legally sell your data, track you, and violate your privacy. “To this day, these agreements largely exist to legally protect companies and not necessarily to ‘fully inform’ users in an intelligible way,” Hartzog wrote. The companies use the information collected to build massive databases, the contents of which can be sold for big money.
More Valuable Than Gold?
Such consumer data is so valuable that German entrepreneur Dr. Christian Lange has labeled it the “Oil of the 21st Century.” Lange believes that consumer data might be more valuable than oil or gold, which gives businesses like Facebook a big incentive to trample your rights.
Big Data knows that most of us will not read the user agreements, which are long and have “gotcha clauses,” in which you sign away your privacy.
Back in 2016, researchers at York University created a fake user agreement that asked subjects to give up their first born child to join a fictional social network called “Namedrop.” Around 71% of the users signed the agreement without reading it, Ars Technica reported. Note: The signers were supposedly parents with children. Interestingly, these parents were taking a communications class at the university at the time. (That should make you smile)
Researchers convinced people to sign their kids away by making it long and hard to read. Furthermore, the “gotcha clause” was buried deep in the agreement. Some experts believe it would take the average person 25 days to actually read the contract they signed in a few minutes.
Protecting Your Rights From User Agreements
Always reading the fine print is still one of the best ways to protect your rights in today’s world. Limiting the information you post on social media or give to big companies is also a great idea. You can also add protection by utilizing sites that comply with the General Data Protection Regulations. The GDPR is a European Union law that restricts what big business can do with your data.
Even though the GDPR is not legal here, U.S. companies will have to follow it to do business in Europe. Doing business with companies that adhere to the GDPR rules might give you more protection, but loopholes abound, so be cautious. Everybody that uses the internet and modern technology should understand that you have probably already signed away your rights in some sense. Getting those rights back is going to be one of the most significant challenges of the 21st Century. We should also attempt to stay one step ahead of the data miners.
You may also enjoy reading: Google’s New Policy Allows It To Track You Like Never Before (But Here’s How To Fix It)
Or download our free 40-page report: Surveillance Nation
To dig even deeper check out the book: Underground Privacy Secrets
Do you have any thoughts or tips about avoiding data mining and the loss of privacy? If so, leave your comments below.