I realized that I had a problem only the other day, when I had just downloaded a new piece of software and I was forced to scroll through the user agreement before accepting it. I needed to scroll for around 30 seconds to get through it all before I could click agree and start using my new programme. I found this annoying, but as somebody who spends lots of time writing about data privacy and criticizing companies who do not do enough to protect it, I realized that I was part of the problem.
When you simply click agree on everything that a company shows you before downloading an app or new piece of software, you are essentially signing your name to a legal document. Although everybody understands this, few take the time to read it like one. It is so common that South Park have even mocked the practice in an episode.
The problem for companies today is that with an individual’s data becoming more and more valuable and the understanding of it amongst the population increasing, people want to know what is being done with it.
No longer are the terms and conditions simply a legal protection for companies though, many people are looking at them in far greater detail in order to make sure that their data is being used ethically and stored correctly.
In light of this, the Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) group was created to score companies on their information rights, data privacy, usage etc. This is shown as a percentage, with Google scoring highest and Russian email service Mail.Ru scoring lowest.
That being said, with Google leading the pack with 65% it is still not a particularly good score whilst Mail.Ru at 13% is abysmal.
In fact, of the 16 major companies investigated only 6 were above 50%, which demonstrates that despite significant media coverage of companies who have either misused or lost data to hackers, that many companies are looking at their own legal protection, rather than the protection of their customer’s privacy.
This needs to change in the near future though, as customers become more aware of the value of their data and the differences between products decreases, customers are looking at how their data is used as much as how much they are paying for a service. Unless more is done to not only make terms and conditions better for informing consumers about how their data is being used, but also make them far more understandable, this is a problem that will continue and could cause considerable problems for the companies involved.