Movie: Terms & Conditions May Apply

Terms & Conditions May Apply exposes what corporations and the government are learning about you with every website you visit, phone call you make, or app you download, with stories of surveillance so unbelievable they’re almost funny. As privacy and civil liberties are eroded with every click, this timely documentary leaves you wondering: if your private information is for sale to the highest bidder, who’s doing the bidding?

Read: Terms of Service; Didn't Read - Look for anything surprising.

Quotes from the film

“Transparency, which bonds us together and gives us all so many friends that we didn’t know before… gives the state an absolutely unparalleled, in the history of humanity, ability to know what’s going on with its citizens. To find out who the dissenters are.” - Daniel Ellsberg

“We need to find a way forward to make sure that we can stop terrorists while protecting privacy and liberty of innocent Americans. We have to find a way to give the president the power he needs to protect us while making sure that he doesn’t abuse that power.” - Barack Obama

“If you were to read everything you agreed to, it would take one full month of work out of every year. That’s 180 hours you would need to spend every year.” - Cullen Hoback

“Even though we don’t write cheques to Google, and that’s why we kind of like the company, that doesn’t mean that Google is really free or that we are free in the liberty sense when we use it.” - Siva Vaidhyanathan

“Anonymity wasn’t profitable.” - Cullen Hoback

“We should be worried.” - Senator Ellen Corbett

Activity: Consider a time in recent history when you agreed to Terms and Conditions (e.g., joining a new website, downloading a new app, buying a plane ticket, etc.). If you can recall what or when that was, go back and read the Terms and Conditions, and time yourself while you do it. 

Discussion Questions 
• How long did it take you? 
• How do you feel about what you just read? Why? 
• How will this information affect you when agreeing to Terms and Conditions in the future?

Activity: Browse your phone’s content—text messages, apps, even consider what’s been said during your phone calls. 

Discussion Questions: 
• Is there any activity you conduct on your phone that you wouldn’t want shared with the government? Why or why not? 
• Is there any activity you conduct on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram that you wouldn’t want shared with the government? Why or why not? 
• In the film, Austrian law student Max Schrems shows us how Facebook retains all of our information, even after we delete our accounts. In essence, we delete them from ourselves. Does this revelation affect the way you will use Facebook in the future? If so, how?

Watch this clip: “Everyone is a Suspect” 

Activity: Browse your network’s tweets, Facebook posts, or other public comments that have been made online in the past day. 

Discussion Questions:
 • Can you identify anything that might be used against you or your friends? How so? 
• Leigh Bryan was detained by the Department of Homeland Security for tweeting to a friend, “Free this week for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America? x.” Do you think DHS was justified in its action? Why or why not? Have you ever tweeted or Facebooked something that could be interpreted as a threat? 
• A common argument by people who are supportive of or indifferent to surveillance is that they have “nothing to hide.” How do the stories of people in the film like Vito LaPinta, Joe Lipari, Leigh Bryan, and other protestors challenge this reasoning? 

Writing Assignment

Your task will be to write a 1.5-2 page double spaced personal response to ONE of the following statements. Spelling and grammar do count, please proofread your work before submission. 

Respond to one of the following idea statements
  • After watching the film, have you changed your perceptions of any of the services or websites mentioned? Will the film affect if and how you use these services and websites again?
  • What is a “legal and legitimate use” of personal or private information? Is there such a thing? 
  • Single posts on Twitter and Facebook have changed the lives of some of the people featured in the film. What are some of the more serious consequences of not reading through the terms and conditions on Twitter and Facebook? 
  • How has personal data been used to harm customers? Reference examples from the film in your response. 
  • What kind of personal information is stored on your smartphone or mobile device? Is your device password protected? How would you feel if your device went missing or was stolen, and what kind of information would a thief be able to access? 
  • Should future employers or schools be able to access your “private” information online, such as your Facebook profile? Why or why not? 
  • Do the opportunities in social networking and our digitized/ online worlds outweigh the risks? 
  • Are you proud of your digital footprint? How do you think you will feel about your digital footprint in 10 years? 
  • In today’s increasingly connected and digitized world, does privacy actually exist? Ask students what privacy means to them.
  • How long should personal data and digital information be retained by companies such as Google and Facebook? How long do these companies currently hold on to your information?