Would you Sign a Contract Without Reading It? Terms of Service are Just As Important


Most people wouldn’t sign a legal contract without reading it or having it looked over by their legal counsel. That’s a good idea. It is easy to lose your rights by signing a document you don’t understand. You may also open yourself up to litigation without even knowing it if you breach the terms of the contract – terms you don’t even know about.

Terms of Service (TOS) for digital services are the same. Most people simple click [Accept] when installing a new app or software on a device. This can be a mistake as you don’t understand how your data is being used, what the penalties of breaching the Terms are, what the Terms say.

Why don’t we read the TOS?

According to Digital Information World 97% of people 18-34 agree to TOS without reading them. There are many reasons for this. One of the biggest reasons that people don’t read them is that they are designed to be long – long enough in fact that you give up the reading. The folks at Digital Information World calculated the length of time it would take an average reader to go through the TOS for some of the most popular service providers online. For example, Microsoft TOS took almost an hour to read completely.

In addition to length the Terms are written in a complex manner with very long sentences and words, making them difficult to read and correctly understand.

Why does it matter what the TOS say?

When you agree to the TOS by clicking accept you are in most cases freely giving away the data these companies collect from you. Make no mistake that ‘free’ apps are getting far more from you than you suspect. All your actions on the site are tracked, in many cases your geographic movements are tracked, the kind of information you look at and how long you look ist tracked, a persona is built from your movements which is very accurate and is then sold on to digital marketers who use it target ads to you perfectly.

Make no mistake that this is a multi billion dollar industry that you are feeding, and that the marketers are using your own data against you to precisely market to you.

Many of the companies further target the movements of your phone. If you enter a store they know where and when and which store. They will then begin to target you with ads specific to the store, the area and your needs.

What does this mean to me?

Many people who were worried that the COVID apps tracked you had no idea of how much they are already being watched, and in the case of private businesses there is little to no oversight of what is done with the data.

This same data can be used by the courts in personal injury cases to show that you may not be as injured as you claim, in criminal cases the information can be used against you as well.

Reading the TOS before you click accept allows you to know precisely who is using your information and how. It also gives you a moment to determine whether you want to give it away. It also informs you of how to ask companies to delete all the information that they have collected about you.

Take a minute and look at the infographic below that was put together by the Visualcapitalist on the length of TOS of some of the most popular apps.

How long would it take to read the terms of service agreements of popular online services

Infographic courtesy of: Visualcapitalist.



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