Published May 04, 2013With an estimated 2.4 billion Internet users, companies worldwide are targeting this staggering global community in new ways, scrambling to get the biggest piece of the online pie. Gone are the days of making users pay for online services as corporations look to new methods of increasing revenue through online advertising and various other ways to get users to siphon money their way.
Nearly everything an Internet user wants to use online is as simple as signing up for a username and a password and agreeing to the company's terms and conditions. But what do the companies providing these seemingly free services get in return? As director Cullen Hoback asks in his film Terms and Conditions May Apply, "What if privacy policies weren't about protecting privacy but about taking it away?"
Hoback, an investigative documentarian, attempts to shed some light on the various terms and conditions we click through without so much as a glance. Hoback's approach is comprehensive, attempting to provide a nugget of information that any Internet user can relate to.
Hoback also examines a discrepancy in Google's archives that serves to prove they've been manipulating their terms and conditions in their favour, exploiting their users in profound ways. With half of the world's Internet population currently using Facebook, the social media giant becomes the key focus of the film since it is well known to collect an abundance of user information. To put things into perspective, the FBI has discontinued its own Internet data collection program, opting to utilize Facebook as its means of keeping an eye on and investigating criminals.
Neatly edited into a slick production, the film is a combination of various talking heads featuring representatives from hacktivist group Anonymous as well as Google, Mozilla, tech and various security analysts. A slew of privacy advocates also have much to say on the topic. Musician Moby and author Margaret Atwood also make appearances in the film, although it isn't exactly clear why either tagged along on this project, having opinions that are out of place.
Hoback structured his film in the same style as Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, using plenty of infographics, kooky narration and light comedic slant to highlight scary statistics in an entertaining, easily digestible format. While the film's aim is to put the collection of facts into perspective, it doesn't provide solutions. That is to say, short of shunning the social media realm and completely going off the grid.
The end result is a film that leaves viewers to mull the information over and seek their own answers. (Hyrax Films)