Let’s be open with our T&Cs for personal data usage.

We’re all guilty of it, aren’t we? We download the app. Or we install the software. Or we decide to purchase that thing online. We get almost all the way through the process and we’re then presented with a little box on the screen - confirming that we have read and understood the terms and conditions. We tick the little box…

Posted on 19 November 2013 - opinion
Tibus BY Tibus

The little box will confirm that you agree to very many things potentially, covering lots of legal terms and standard stuff. In the vast majority of cases, nearly all of that is innocuous and harmless.

But crucially, that little box will also cover details around your personal information – and how that software provider / website / social media platform / app developer will treat that information. How it will store it. And how it will use it.

For example, the T&Cs might cover how strangers can access your details via a social media platform. Or it might cover how an app developer will charge you in future. Or how a website data will share your data with advertisers at some point. Crucially, accepting those T&Cs can mean simply installing updates, an accepted and natural thing in modern life in the digital world, particularly with smartphones.

In our opinion, these T&Cs cover fundamental aspects of the way we as consumers interact with the digital world. They often cover big changes to those terms too. They are more than ‘the small print’.

We see 2 parts to the problem:

  1. The lack of transparency in how that our personal info will be stored and used.
  1. The lack of consistency – there are fundamental differences between quite similar companies, in the way they use consumer personal data.

The website www.tosdr.org has done an excellent job of illustrating just these two problems. It makes for interesting reading.

Can we make it better?

We believe we need to face up to a growing feeling of mystery and anxiety amongst consumers, when it comes to accepting T&Cs in the digital space.

We’re suggesting that we resist the temptation to hide important changes to the relationship we have with our digital consumers, by burying them in T&Cs. We think that as an industry, perhaps we need to be more open about how we’ll use consumer data.

Most users are absolutely okay with their data being used in the way the provider wants to use it. But that nature and style of personal data usage isn’t a term or a condition to be buried in legalese. No, that’s a core part of the deal. We believe that we as an industry should embrace this idea.

We advocate openness and transparency in T&Cs. Let’s make what we do with personal data and how we do it a core part of the deal with the consumer. In particular, let’s state what the real impact will be when we ask the consumer to install that update or renew that software licence.

We’re advocating that all of us providing services to the digital consumer describe our data usage policies in the same way to those consumers. Comparison breeds improvement.

We think www.tosdr.org is a great start.