/* ---- Google Analytics Code Below */

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Can Intelligent Assistants Help us with the Small Print?

We often need help with both the meaning and implications of the small print.

Artificial Intelligence, Ratings, and the Small Print
By Deborah Unger is a senior editor of strategy+business.

People have always balked at reading terms of service — the acres of fine print on the bottom of insurance policies and product agreements and in pop-ups on apps and websites. It’s so much easier and quicker to click “I agree” than to wade through hours of boring legalese. But there are risks. A 2016 academic study found that 98 percent of people signed up for a fictitious free Wi-Fi service, NameDrop, even though clause 2.3.1 of its terms states: “By agreeing to these Terms of Service, and in exchange for service, all users of this site agree to immediately assign their first-born child to NameDrop, Inc.”

In this age of big data, AI, and machine learning, there must be a better way for companies to present — and for consumers to manage — the small print. A sense of urgency to develop such systems is rising. “Data companies have preached the mantra of transparency for their users, but have not applied it to themselves,” explained Alessandro Acquisti, PwC William W. Cooper Professor of Risk and Regulatory Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University, in an email. As a result, “privacy policies do not really fulfill the goal of transparency.”

To address these shortcomings, participants in the open data scene, who have been raising red flags about privacy and data for years, and academics have developed a transparent user-powered review site for the fine print. When I first stumbled across Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (ToS;DR), an initiative started in 2012, I thought I was in an online confessional for guilty “I agreers.” But ToS;DR is far more useful. Its purpose is to do the reading for you — or, rather, to have others do the reading for you — and rate the privacy details in ToS agreements, including those of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and YouTube.

Think of Rotten Tomatoes or Reddit, but for the fine print. ToS;DR assigns thumbs-up or thumbs-down icons based on the aggregate scores of its crowdsourced reviews. It’s especially keen on revealing what a site will do with your data. Each site analysis is summarized with a bulleted list of useful ToS elements, such as “this service tracks you on other websites,” “this service can share your personal information with other parties,” and “this service can delete your account without prior notice and without a reason.”

“Data companies have preached the mantra of transparency for their users, but have not applied it to themselves.”  ..... 

No comments: