In Tuesday’s class we looked at a trailer for the film Terms and Conditions May Apply. The film looks at all those end-user license agreements that are designed so end-users don’t read them. People generally don’t know what they’re agreeing to when they click the “I Accept” button, and it wouldn’t really matter if they did know, because many companies reserve the right change the terms and conditions without warning or notice.
This is problematic because people don’t know what they signing away, part of what makes it a privacy issue. It’s also a problem because people may unwittingly violate the terms, which can lead to harsh consequences. The Department of Justice has asserted that ToS violations can be prosecuted as felonies, and although Congress has made moves to address this, they haven’t seen them through. This can not only stifle but criminalize innovation.
A lot of the privacy and terms of service issues seem to be tied to what I consider closed environments, like Facebook. Access and use of our data is the toll we pay to get in. We also have the open web, and our own spaces on it, where we have more control. We can make that social with the POSSE model, pushing information from our own spaces out to other services like Twitter or Facebook. We’re experimenting with that using a platform called Known in our ds106 section.
Just as a coincidence, Tim Berners-Lee talked about data ownership yesterday in London. It sounds like he’s calling for a web that treats our personal data, which all those sites collect, as our intellectual property.
Berners-Lee argued that the burden of tracking should be moved from the typical web user to the individuals and organisations with access to our data.
That sort of flips the current situation on its head. I don’t know if it’s doable, but it’s an interesting idea.