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Security & privacy

Read the terms of service or you might just sign away the right to name your child

Signing up for a service, you often have to click through and accept its Terms and Conditions. It’s a laborious process, and reading through it can often take a long time. Generally, the conditions and terms of service are outlined by the company to protect themselves legally.

But there is a problem with that. Most people never actually read it. Thinking back, when is the last time you read terms of service before clicking “OK” or “Agree?” Most will scroll through it simply to get access to the app. Tap or click here to spot fine-print ‘gotchas’ before you agree to online terms of service.

In a recent study, 37% said they just skim through the details. Even worse, 35% more admitted that they didn’t read the documents at all. Keep reading to find out why that’s so dangerous.

There can be consequences

Not thoroughly reading through terms of service could cost your dearly. By agreeing, you can’t claim that you didn’t know about certain things, and you would have no recourse to fight it in court.

That is exactly what 98% of respondents in a survey realized. Without reading through the fine print, they agreed to a fake consent form that offered the naming rights to their firstborn child.

“Only 16 people caught our sneaky clause in the dummy consent form at the beginning of our survey. Ninety-eight% agreed to allow us to name their firstborn child, despite language in the consent form notifying them that they could still complete the survey if they declined,” explained Security.org in a blog post.

In a previous study, only 9% of people read the terms of service. For the younger generation in the 18 to 34-year-old group, that number fell to an astonishing 3%.

America has been rated F for digital privacy knowledge

Why don’t we read the terms? The survey found several explanations, with the most prominent one being that the documents are too long and complicated.

Security.org also wanted to test the digital privacy knowledge of Americans. The aim was to determine how aware we are about clauses and the amount of data that apps and services collect.

“To determine America’s digital privacy score, we asked people to correctly identify the types of information the apps on their phone collect from them. We based it on the apps they said they currently have installed,” Security.org explained.

It might not come as a surprise, but 78% of respondents failed the quiz — getting an F-grade for their knowledge. The average score for the quiz was 54%, with only 1% of respondents scoring more than 90 out of 100.

But the situation is a bit of a Catch-22. People don’t read the terms because it’s too long, but also wanted regular updates from companies about what the data is used for. For that to happen, Federal data privacy legislation would need to be passed.

Beat the fine print

While you might not get away without reading the fine print and legal terms, there is an easier way to understand what it all means.

With the cleverly named browser extension “Terms of Service;Didn’t Read (ToS;DR),” it turns the complicated language into more palatable sentences by scanning user agreements and privacy policies.

The extension is available for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge and Opera.

Keep reading

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