So you find yourself in a situation that warrants an online contract. You’re purchasing a service or product, signing on to a social media website, or requesting information/documentation from a company. Almost always, the contract you are signing is an opt-in contract, or you are agreeing to use a product under the stated limitations set forth by a company. Pretty boring stuff. What people fail to realize though, is that opt-in contracts bypass legalities that users overlook due to their own blind intention. Consent to data usage is usual culprit that is brought up in court hearings, small or large, and usually are dismissed from being evidence due to contractual agreements resulting from opt-ins. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, and here’s why:
Opt-in contracts (e.g. Terms and Conditions) are not read by 91% of all signers, and 97% of people aged 18-35, according to a Deloitte study. With how long-winded and legal-sounding it is, you would imagine that the contract would have your best intention when you put your e-John Hancock on the thing? Not really the case. The University of Connecticut did a study on opt-in contracts with a fake social media network, writing a terms of conditions that included users giving up their firstborn as payment for the service and that all information collected would be turned over to the NSA. 98% of users agreed to the contract. Kind of makes you rethink agreeing to something all willy-nilly without reading the fine print.
The biggest issue with online opt-in contracts is consumer protection, how the false pretense of security allows companies to have their cake and eat it too. It can be like the aforementioned situation, where people agree to anything or something as wild as using iTunes to develop nuclear weapons, because why not? Cover your bases. But users need to do the same. The G.I. Joe PSAs said it best :”Knowledge is half the battle.” What is it to read a 5-minute contract to avoid selling your firstborn or worse? Let me give you a simple example on why reading the fine print is everything.
So you’re checking out the newest gadget or the most ‘hype’ social media platform and nothing is stopping you from getting it. You’re signing up and finishing the order/subscription, then this huge legal contract, ‘TERMS OF CONDITIONS‘, smacks on your desktop with a bunch of legal jargon. You think to yourself ‘Psh, only a nerd would read this bunk.’ and click the accept button. Out of nowhere, you hear a window break, footsteps, and suddenly everything goes to black.
You wake up 12 hours later, and find yourself in the Australian Outback (not the steakhouse). Confused and scared of your current situation, you scramble to regain your faculties and notice a large shadowed figure approaching you over this red clay tundra. As your sight comes into focus, you realize the features of this individual all too well: a man adorned with a fang-studded cowboy hat, crocodile leather vest, and a Bowie knife the size of your forearm. It’s Crocodile Dundee, in the living flesh.
He hands you a copy of the contract that you e-signed stating that ‘For you to use our product, you must go three rounds of barrel-knuckle boxing with Crocodile Dundee.’ You are awe-struck. How could this happen? Why couldn’t I just have read what I was signing up for? As you’re considering this, Dundee leans over and whispers ‘That’s the Opt-In Contract, Boyo’, as he squares up.
Could size up to one of the greatest fisticuffs to grace the ‘Down Under’, or the most merciless whooping one could take. It’s subjective, right? Someone would look at this as an honor, while others just wanted to be able to post their blog on three different sites at the same time. But that’s what happens when it comes to opt-in contracts, the choice is yours, either read the fine print or fight Crocodile Dundee (Or just keep that mentality about it). What can be the furthest extent that they take it?