Digital Media & Surveillance

“Do you agree to the terms and conditions?”- Why your data is being sold to businesses…

Thinking back to the time when I started my social media accounts, I was probably around the age of 12 or 13 for Facebook and a bit older for some of the other social networks I use. When I signed up for Facebook, I entered my email address, name and password, created the account and started adding more and more to enhance my profile, but thinking back on it now, I probably should have monitored what data I entered, because the data exists somewhere in a data bank, even if I think I have deleted it.

Logging into a new social network or website that requires a user account, what do you see? In most cases, a little check box with the phrase “I have read and agree to the terms of conditions”. Many just click the box and continue on. Why is this? Is it because humans are lazy? Is there too much legal jargon included? Well, users of these sites should read through the terms and conditions because the websites are selling your data to third parties. Third parties then use a user’s data to ‘compromise [our] digital traces’…to create marketing material based on our ‘purchases and searches’ (Till 2013, p.36)


Checklist ( by Animated Heaven (Public Domain)


I recently ran a poll on Twitter to determine #ALC205‘s commitment to reading the terms and conditions. The results are in and (drum roll please)(credit to: Jojikiba):

70% of voters surveyed, just don’t read the terms and conditions and just click ‘Agree’. I would also be in either the category of skim or skip and agree, as ‘ain’t nobody got time for that‘ (Credit: The Parady Factory). Till (2013, p.42) worries that users are ‘lack[ing] in trust’ and are ‘surrender[ing] their personal details to companies’, in which they use the data to create ‘more data’. (Till 2013 p.42).

Many social networking sites (SNS) define in their terms and conditions that they can share user’s data with third parties associated with the site. But, let’s think where does the data go from there? The data is generally stored in ‘data mines’ (Fertik & Thompson 2015, p.2). According to Fertik & Thompson (2015, p.2) data mining is ‘the 2010s buzzword for the trend toward collecting huge amounts of data about nearly every subject imaginable’.

Once the data is stored, companies are able to then ‘supply the data to anyone willing to pay cash for it’ (Fertik & Thompson 2015, p.5). One’s online presence and identity creates a reputation, based on the data you provide. Fertik & Thompson (2015, p.6) compare one’s ‘digital reputation’ or digital thumbprint as being ‘more valuable than cash currency’.


thumbprint ( by Craig Pennington (CC-BY 2.0)


It is actually a bit worrying about how much data is stored on an individual but even more worrying to think who has access to my data and what is my online reputation like?

I think any future SNS that I sign up for, I will read the fine print about where my data is going or will I just ‘skip’ over the terms and conditions without reading them?


Read the Fine Print ( by Phil Roeder (CC-BY 2.0)


For anyone that is interested in some of the terms and conditions of popular websites like Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube, I have created a jeopardy style game with some questions outlining some terms and conditions. The link is in the below tweet.

Keep safe online!

Reid 🙂

Fertik, M & Thompson, D.C, 2015, ‘Welcome to the Reputation Economy’, The Reputation Economy, Tall Tree Enterprises, New York, pp. 1-16

Till, C, 2013, ‘Architects of time: Labouring on digital futures’, Thesis Eleven, vol. 118, no. 1, pp. 33 – 47


8 thoughts on ““Do you agree to the terms and conditions?”- Why your data is being sold to businesses…

  1. Hey Reid!
    really enjoyed reading this, I myself am one of those lazy people who ‘skim and agree’ the terms and conditions to a website (I’m pretty sure I voted in the poll too) and I must say this post has opened my eyes a bit and made me realise that I should probably start reading the fine print.
    I loved the youtube clips you added as well- they gave your post a nice balance of casual and professional. The game is also amazing as well and a great way to get people familiarised with terms and conditions of websites!
    Great job- looking forward to reading more 🙂


  2. Loved this posts, your tweets worked well and the information well laid out. You always add such great extra content that makes the post so engaging and informative! I always say to myself that I want t to be more cautious of what I agree too, but I don’t think I could ever read the terms and conditions because it’s always so long and boring, they need to make terms and conditions more fun.

    Great Job Reid

    Liked by 1 person

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