A social experiment has tricked hundreds of social media users into giving up their firstborn child. Sort of. But not really.
The study from Jonathan Obar, who teaches communication technology at York University, and Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch, a University of Connecticut communications assistant professor, requested that 543 undergraduate communication students sign up for a brand new social network called NameDrop to evaluate the latest entry into the social networking scene.
However NameDrop isn’t a real social network. It was set up to see how many of the students would actually read the lengthy terms and conditions while they were signing up to create an account.
The terms and conditions – based on LinkedIn’s policies – contained a somewhat hidden clause. That in order to use the social networking website, the students would have to hand over the rights to their first born child. The conditions also claimed their data would be shared with the NSA.
The study was attempting to prove a point, of course. That the biggest lie on the Internet is this statement – “I have read and agree with the terms and conditions”.
98% of the students didn’t see either the NSA or first born clauses. 74% of the students didn’t read any of the terms and conditions at all.
Well they needn’t worry. Clauses in terms of service such as giving up your children are completely unenforceable, dispelling the myth that just because something appears in a terms of service you agree with, it doesn’t mean it’s legally binding. It’s dubbed a Herod clause.
However terms of services are still important. Amongst other things, they outline what a company will and will not do with your information. And this latest study is one of many that demonstrates that most of us simply don’t read them.
But, of course, can we be blamed? Terms of service policies are long, and contain lots of language that we simply don’t understand, or may struggle with. And it is unrealistic to have a lawyer go through these policies every time we sign up to a website.
The summary of the study is that length terms of service policies are “deeply flawed, if not an absolute failure.”
What do you think? Let us know.