Get Their Agreement

However, it is possible that the click-to-accept page design will exacerbate the problem. A few years ago, Rainer Bohme of UC Berkeley and Stefan Kopsell of the Technical University of Dresden tested alternative formulations of a simple consent form with more than 80,000 Internet users. Some have been told that their agreement is necessary, and with the “I agree” button highlighted. They went 26% more often than other users who had been politely asked to participate (with phrases like “We would greatly appreciate your support” and the “yes” and “no” options represented by Lookalike buttons). The real problem with click-to-agree may not be that individuals are not fulfilling their duty. On the contrary, we may have kept individuals in touch with this impossible mission. Finally, there are other ways to design our relationship with Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and thousands of other companies that ask us to sign these documents. The words on the screen, as a small type, were as innocent and familiar as a house key. “If you click “With,” read them, “you agree to respect our terms of use.” Hundreds of students have bet on the big green “join” button to become members of NameDrop, a new social network. But in accordance with paragraph 2.3.1 of the Terms of Use, they had agreed to give NameDrop their future firstborns. When Leah approached her lawyer to update her custody agreement, the lawyer told her that Corey would have to pay a lot more. Fortunately, NameDrop does not exist.

The students were the subject of an experiment conducted by two professors of communication, Jonathan Obar of York University in Toronto and Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch of the University of Connecticut. They confirmed in the laboratory what other scientists have carefully researched data on actual user behaviour: no one reads online contracts, licensing agreements, terms of use, privacy policies and other agreements. We say we do it with our millions of obedience clicks, but it is, like Obar and Oeldorf-Hirsch last year in their journal about the experience, “the biggest lie on the Internet”. Only a quarter of the 543 students even bothered to look at the fine print.