Pop quiz: Which is longer, Shakespeare’s classic (and longest) play, “Hamlet,” or the Terms of Service for PayPal?
The answer: PayPal’s ocean of legalese, exceeding the play’s length by more than 50 percent.
Consumer-facing companies – especially in the United States – have bunk beds full of lawyers who write deliberately opaque verbiage that give them every advantage concerning your personal information. Just a clue: there is more to it than agreeing to arbitration in Delaware.
Did you know a certain picture site takes credit for all content you post and doesn’t have to delete your pictures when you say you want them deleted? It’s right there in the site’s Terms of Service on page, ah . . . page . . . let me see, I saw it somewhere in these 85 pages.
If we want to change this, we can go two ways: One is to take advice from Shakespeare’s “Henry VI,” with the famous line, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” or we can push for plain language and transparency in Terms of Service.
The European Union is sparing the lawyers and taking the second approach with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), set to take effect in May 2018.
The GDPR, which imposes stiff penalties for violations, includes requirements that companies clearly and obviously state every specific use in their Terms of Service forms and provide options to users.
Don’t want to give up your email for collateral marketing? Don’t tick the box.
Want to keep rights to all comments or photos you post on a site? Maybe that is a possibility.
This far-reaching ToS transparency described in the GDPR is a welcome game-changer.
For the first time in internet use agreements, users will have the right to say where, when and how their information is used.
I like it.
And I also like that thousands of lawyers who write those 90-page Terms of Service agreements now have to tell me in plain language what they want to do with my information.
So when it comes to GDPR, I say: “First thing we do, let’s school all the lawyers.”
By Jason Rose