February 22, 2024

How carefully do we give consent?

No one ever reads terms of service contracts

When we give informed consent, how informed is it? Naturally, people would take greater care if the welfare of their children is at risk – or would they?

Jonathan Obar, of York University, in Toronto, has just published a paper about informed consent on the internet which shows that people can be extremely careless. He created a fake social network which required people to click “accept” the terms of service as a condition of access. About 98% accepted – even though the contract said that they would have to give up their first-born child and that all information gathered on the network would be shared with the National Security Agency and other security agencies in the US and abroad.

Obar concludes that “notice and choice policy is flawed, if not an absolute failure”. And he points out that “if there is little hope for adults, what chance is there for children to protect themselves?”

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