Firstly, Terms and Conditions is an excellent documentary in its own merit, which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in better informing themselves about the Internet and the cultural and political ramifications of its use.
The film analyzes the content of the titular “Terms and Conditions” that users must agree to in order to utilizes websites and online services. The clip from South Park quite neatly illustrates the general attitude about reading terms and conditions: “Who the hell reads that entire thing every time it pops up?” Though we laugh at the ridiculous situation Kyle Broflovski ends up in, it raises a serious question: What are we agreeing to in those terms and conditions?
As the movie makes quite plain, the terms and conditions are often so laborious to read and loaded with convoluted jargon that we just blindly agree to them in order to obtain the service. I think the joke pulled by the video game makes it quite clear that if companies knows that their consumers do not read their terms and conditions, the customers are open to being taken advantage of. As a consumer and individual interested in protecting my rights to privacy, this is an extremely worrying trend. What’s even more worrying, is that before I saw this documentary I did not even think about how foolish it is to agree to legally binding contracts without even bothering to read them.
I think the film takes an extremely important step forward in the process of education citizens about the legal ramifications of their Internet/product usage. Coincidentally, I’m also taking a course called “Privacy vs. Security” which examines issues of Internet security as well. The major question that I take away from this film and the course is this: Why have people become so complacent in blindly using the Internet and services without learning about how to protect themselves from abuses?
As these issues become more public and culturally influential, hopefully measures will be taken to inform the masses on how to protect themselves when using the Internet. I think that as a whole, people have gotten away with being uninformed users for many years and businesses have developed to abuse this fact. As this technology becomes more available to the public and ingrained into culture, hopefully effective and informed usage of this technology will become more popular. I hope someday to see changes in the way that online businesses conduct themselves, whether legislation is created and enacted by the government to protect citizens; or the government places greater emphasis on educating citizens to use the Internet and its services more safely, or some other force.
All in all a very educational, if somewhat paranoia-inducing film!