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SOS: Selling Our Souls for Technology… or Did You Read the T&A?

By Martie Hevia | Blue Beach Song™

Do you think we would have signed up for social media sites, like Facebook, in the early days, if they had told us that we would be selling our souls to use their technology?

Somehow, I don’t think many people would have signed up then or now if the ‘Terms and Agreements,’ ‘Permissions,’ and ‘Privacy Statements‘ were written in basic English (instead of legalese and obfuscated language) or if it required less than 20 pages of reading and less than two hours of figuring out the implications of all the things to which they want you to agree.

To be safe, shouldn’t we have our lawyers take a look at all these legal “Terms and Agreements” to make sure we understand to what terms we are agreeing? And, of course, we would need our team of lawyers to re-read them every time each of these websites update or change those ‘Terms and Agreements,’ ‘Permissions,’ and ‘Privacy Statements.’

Instead, imagine signing up for a social media site and reading a straightforward ‘Agreement‘ that goes something like this:

Okay, here’s the deal, if you want to use our website:

  1. We want you to share your personal (and sometimes intimate) information and photos, daily if possible, on a timeline of your life.
  2. We want you to tag photos with you and all the people you know – including embarrassing photos, intimate photos, ugly photos, drinking photos – regardless of your motivation and without those people’s ability to un-tag themselves.
  3. We want you to fill out a never-ending survey on our site – and all over the Internet – of everything you ‘Like’ (and by default ‘Don’t Like’) by clicking a ‘Thumbs Up’ icon or ‘Sharing’ it on our site.
  4. We want you to give us your email and password so we can take your contact list and spam them with emails (from you) asking them to sign-up for our service.
  5. We want you to fill out our online forms with your name, birthday, address, family members, marital status, religious preferences, political affiliations, where you have lived, where you have worked, where you have gone to school, what degrees you have earned, and anything else that we can think of that can help someone steal your identity – especially if they hack into our servers or simply look at your page on our site.
  6. We want you to let us put spyware or cookies on your computer that will let us track you everywhere you go on the Internet, every site you visit, every search you make, everything you buy, everything you read, well, everything we can collect about you.
  7. We want you to let us sell much (if not all) of that information to third-party vendors, marketers, affiliates, sponsors, corporate partners, developers, and anyone else who will pay us for your information.
  8. We want you to allow our third party vendors, affiliates, etc., to use your photos in their ads promoting anything and everything from condoms to adult diapers – it’ll be a surprise.
  9. We want you to give full access to your photos and information – and to your friends’ and acquaintances’ photos and information – to the companies or random guys who create those ‘free’ games or apps you play or use on our site, the first time you use them, which includes buying virtual flowers, hugs or any other gimmicks that will get you to click your mouse on their app or game.
  10. We want you to agree to NOT hold us liable if you get fired because your employer saw photos of you drinking when someone you barely know tagged you in a five-year-old photo; or your marriage breaks up because someone who doesn’t like you made up lies about you; or burglars break into your home because you posted on your timeline when and where you were going on vacation.
  11. In exchange for your agreement, we will let you use our technology to share all your private photos and information with the world. If you do not want to share your personal photos and information with the entire world, you will need to read the fine detailed updates to our privacy agreements every day and update your settings. After that, you can limit access to your personal photos and information to the hundreds of ‘friends’ who have access to your personal page because you felt too guilty to say ‘no,’ lest you insult a co-worker, a neighbor, or the guy you met at that party five years ago.
  12. P.S. – If you only want to create a “Business Page” to help promote your business, or art, or group, or community, or cause, we still require you to create a “Personal Page” first so we can sell your personal information – we don’t give these pages away for free, you know.
  13. P.P.S. – If you ever decide you want to delete your account, we will NOT delete your account, we will simply ‘de-activate’ it because we want to hold on to all that valuable data we have collected about you that we will continue to sell ad infinitum (which means FOR-E-VER!).

Okay, so, that’s about it. We will probably update and change this tomorrow, so check back every day, or have your team of lawyers do it.

Thank you for letting us collect, use, and sell your personal data to become incredibly rich and powerful.

Nowadays, pretty much every social media website, email service, game, and app contains invasive terms asking for permission to read, access, and alter the contents of your mobile phones, tablets, computers, or any other digital device you own. We willingly agree to store everything we used to save on our computers to “clouds” or space on companies’ servers, including sensitive documents, photos, personal and financial information, work product, music, movies, and other media.

Do we really even own it or control it when it sits on someone else’s servers? What happens if we die? What will they do with all our data? Who will gain access to it?

When you agree to these permissions, if you read them, you may be giving these games, apps, services, and websites the rights to read your emails, text messages, and postings; the rights to collect the information on your contacts list; the rights to access and use your camera and microphone without notifying you; the rights to alter your digital device – be it your phone, tablet, computer; the rights to access and write to your SD cards; the rights to access your GPS location, letting them know where you go and who you visit; the rights to track you across the Internet; the rights to collect and sell information about you; etc., etc., etc.

So why do we agree to sell our souls for technology?

No doubt it varies with each person, but generally there are some of us who are addicted to being connected or to having the latest and greatest in technology in all its forms; some of us succumb to peer pressure, having a need to belong to or to be accepted by our peer group; some of us need to promote our businesses, our arts, our causes, and we have no choice, if we want to survive in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, for younger people, this is a perfectly normal and acceptable state of affairs, sharing all the intimacies of your life and giving full access to your digital devices to anyone who offers a free game or app or website or service. This is how the world has been for them for as long as they can remember.

However, for older people – or anyone who first associates ‘Big Brother‘ with George Orwell’s 1984 instead of a CBS show – this invasion of privacy and collection of private data would be simply terrifying, if only they could understand the capabilities of the technologies, the scope of the access, as well as the terms and the permissions to which they are agreeing.

The corporations collect the data on their massive servers so they can sell it to marketers and third-party entities, or give it to the government when asked. Identity theft is so much easier now and violation of our civil rights a matter of course. And when we complain, they all point to the fact that we shared our private information voluntarily and we agreed to those “Terms and Agreement.”

In the end, we will need to figure out for ourselves – as individuals and as a society – how much or how little we value our privacy, and how much access into our private lives we are willing to give to others.

Martie Hevia (c) 2014 | All Rights Reserved

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