Terms of service contain unpredictable wildcards

In 2004, a software company called PC Pitstop promised to award $1,000 to the first user who read their entire terms of service. One man actually read the terms of service after 3,000 others had overlooked the cash prize ‘easter egg,’ embedded deep within the end user license agreement.

But the vast majority of application users have no idea what they’re agreeing to when they click that accept button at the bottom of the page.

In an increasingly technological world, more of our everyday activities include the use of devices, almost exclusively involving the Internet. The terms and conditions of a given application are a topic of mystery. No one ever really knows what they’re signing away when they click that accept button.

The public often speculates, though, wondering if their first-born children and bank-account passwords were promised somewhere in the depths of Facebook’s terms and conditions, but it turns out that our digital privacy should be a bigger concern.

Most websites’ terms and conditions include waivers and disclaimers, like those seen when accessing the Wifi provided at many Starbucks cafes. Before being permitted to go online, Wifi takes the user to a login page with a green button sporting, “Accept and Go Online.” Beneath the button lies smaller print, explaining that by clicking accept the user has read and understood their terms of service.

Upon further investigation, the user will learn the terms of service consist of a 1,500-word document outlining exactly what Starbucks is not responsible for, stating the user must “understand that this WiFi, which utilizes wireless technologies, is not inherently secure and that wireless communications may not remain private or free of interception or access by others.”

It seems this is the case with most Internet service providers, though other companies go deeper.

Carmel High School requires students to have Google accounts, but in accepting the Google terms of services students sign away their privacy rights, as Google retains the right to store Internet searches and website visits to determine information such as which advertisements to display on your computer screen or what search engine results come up first.

Junior KatAlina Stamenov points out that the tracking of information isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I’m fine with that because it really doesn’t matter,” Stamenov says, “and if they’re trying to help my experience, I think it’s for the better. I just don’t put all my private information on the Internet.”

Other social media companies operate as private connections from device to device, but the popular application Snapchat reserves far more rights than the average user likely knows.

When users accept Snapchat’s terms of service, they are granting Snapchat “a worldwide… sublicensable, and transferable license to host, store, use, display, reproduce, exhibit and publicly display that content.” Essentially, the user gives up any and all rights to the photographs and videos they send via Snapchat. The company goes so far as to ensure that it will retain this right in all forms of media, “now known or later developed.”

According to the Business Insider, Snapchat has near to 100 million users on a daily basis whose pictures they technically have access to.

However, this is not necessarily seen as a violation of privacy among CHS students. Snapchat user freshman Aaron Georis explains that he is happy to agree to the terms of service if it will help the company he is using, in this case Snapchat.

Other students hold a different opinion on the popular social media application’s privacy policy, surprised to hear of the elaborate measures Snapchat took to ensure legal rights.

“I had no idea [about the Snapchat terms of service],” sophomore Molly Wolf says. “I guess that feels a little bit violating. I would feel violated if I sent something for one person to see, and Snapchat was able to access that.”
-Anna Gumberg