Terms and conditions suck, as we’ve said before. They are designed to be impenetrably unreadable to convince app users not to bother. The ‘Click here to AGREE’ button might as well have a giant cartoon arrow winking away on it.
It’s a shitty situation that traps consumers in a position of ignorant consent when it comes to participating in the digital economy. The only alternative being self-imposed digital banishment. Not exactly a fair fight.
And even less fair when you consider that most of the apps being used now are mobile apps, and small screens make an even less pleasant reading environment for digesting dense, multi-thousand-word blocks of legalese. I mean, we know the law is an ass, but trying to stuff an ass into a ~6×3 rectangle of glass is particularly ridiculous…
To illustrate exactly how ridiculous the Terms & Conditions debacle remains for app users, Norway’s consumer protection agency is live streaming reading out the T&Cs for 30 common apps — including Snapchat, Dropbox, Instagram and Facebook — over a 24 hour+ readathon.
You can watch the event right here, right now.
The reading kicked off at 9am CET so they’ve been going for almost two hours at this point. At the time of writing they’re less than an inch deep into a stack of paper at least 5 inches high. You’ll definitely be very sick of popcorn if you make it through the entire event.
Thankfully the NCC is not sacrificing one person’s vocal chords to this horrible task with readers being swapped regularly and supplied with copious glasses of water to make it through the awful stack.
Discussing the ‘T&Cs-a-thon’ with Ars Technica yesterday, the NCC said: “Reading 250,000 words of app terms and conditions is an impossible task for most people. We hope this will highlight what consumers actually click ‘OK’ to. Many apps also take away our rights by granting themselves the power to unilaterally amend the contract. It is self-evident that consumers are put at a disadvantage.”
The readathon follows the NCC investigating 20 apps’ T&Cs, finding many implemented unfair terms and poor privacy practices. It also recently made a formal complaint to Runkeeper over personal data being transferred to a third party even when the app was not in use — an illegal data-grab that Runkeeper subsequently claimed was a bug. It remains unclear whether the personal data in question has been deleted by the third party, as the NCC is urging.