‘Boring! It doesn’t make any sense!’
If we knew we were handing over our photographs and private messages before we tapped ‘Accept’, would we think twice?
Can we make an informed choice about the digital services we use if we don’t bother to read what we’re agreeing to, or can’t understand it? Can our agreement be enforced if we can’t understand what we agreed to?
Fifty-six percent of young people aged 12–15 use Instagram, and 43 percent of those aged 8–11.
‘Are you sure this is necessary? There are like 100 pages!’ (13-year-old)
After 20 minutes of reading, they were only halfway through and begging to be allowed to stop.
When asked what they had understood about their privacy rights, this was a typical reaction:
‘I don’t know due to the sheer amount of writing and the lack of clarity within the document.’ (15-year-old)
Although you are responsible for the information you put on Instagram, we may keep, use and share your personal information with companies connected with Instagram. This information includes your name, email address, school, where you live, pictures, phone number, your likes and dislikes, where you go, who your friends are, how often you use Instagram, and any other personal information we find such as your birthday or who you are chatting with, including in private messages (DMs).
The taskforce tested these rewritten terms with teenage Instagram users, and found they could now easily understand the terms. Here’s how the teenagers reacted to what they understood.
‘They must know that no one reads the terms and conditions. But if they made it more easy then people would actually read it and think twice about the app. They write like this so you can’t understand it. Because then you might think differently.’ (13-year-old)
‘When it was put that way as opposed to being bogged down in technicalities, it made me realise just how much of my personal data I am giving away to a random company without realising. They are also free to give this information to third parties, and this is all something I have agreed to (without realising), just by agreeing to the terms and conditions.’ (16-year-old)
‘I’m deleting Instagram because it’s weird.’ (13-year-old)
The Commissioner’s taskforce used Instagram as an example, but points out that in order to use many other popular social media apps, children as well as adults are being asked to accept that:
All of us, and especially children, have a right to know what we’re agreeing to and what can happen to our information.
To make informed choices, we need our information to be clear and to the point.
From a business such as Instagram’s point of view, people are much more likely to trust and value the authenticity of a company that communicates openly using plain language.