Terms of Agreement

Guest Post by: Samantha Schwalbach

As we look at what the NSA has been doing for years and what the public knows, I can’t say I was surprised that the government would be monitoring the American public, let alone other countries i.e. the president of Brazil. Yes, I do see the benefits of the NSA stopping possible terrorist attacks. However, it seems like an awful lot of trouble to monitor nearly every single phone call, text message, and email. The list of what the U.S. government knows about the people of this country seems never ending.

3 SchwalbachWhat really has me thinking is that throughout our lives we sign “terms of agreements” to have access to certain things – things like Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, your cable and telephone provider and more! Yet, I can’t name a single person who has sat down to read the entire “terms” they are “agreeing” to. I know I’ve never taken the time to read a single word of any of the agreements I’ve signed. I see the “accept” button and voila! I have access to whatever I wanted to have. So do they.

There is an episode of South Park where people click the “accept” button signing terms of agreements to use a music program similar iTunes. What they don’t realize is that the agreements sign away their lives to be used for scientific experiments and so on. It’s quite comical, yet ironic as it illustrates what people all across the U.S. do almost regularly.

I think many people today just quickly click the “accept” because we are so used to living in a fast-paced world that reading the entire agreement would take too long. The wording of almost all terms of agreements are full of legal jargon that the average person probably has no clue what it even means. I just don’t see how America can still be called the “Land of the Free,” when we all seem to sign our lives away, agreeing to who knows what just so we can have access to something. Yes, it is our free choice to accept these agreements. Yet, I feel the public needs to know what they are signing on for. Why are there so many clauses and articles in a Terms of Agreement?

So maybe the public isn’t made aware of what they are giving away. They are giving away their privacy willingly, but at the same time unwillingly. Facebook asks every personal question under the sun—they are the greatest customer surveyors! Google can map out the entire planet and bring you directly to someone’s house. Phone companies have all the records of who you called and for how long. All of that information is powerful. What’s even more powerful is what can be done with it.

What is entirely frightening is that if this metadata was somehow hacked into, say by the wrong people, the American public would be entirely at risk. Our safety would be compromised. The massive amount of metadata the NSA has collected is outstanding and truly a modern marvel of technology. I’m brought back to a quote from one of my favorite series, Harry Potter. Harry is about to receive his wand from Mr. Ollivander and Mr. Ollivander says (in regards to the power of the wand and the connection between Harry and Lord Voldemort), “But I think it is clear that we can expect great things from you. After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things. Terrible! Yes. But great.” The metadata is great information, but it has the possibility to have terrible repercussions.


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