Business Law & Compliance

MP Andrew Miller calls for simplified social media terms and conditions

3 min read

28 November 2014

According to MP Andrew Miller, the terms and conditions that social media companies make users agree to are by no means a demonstration of how users have given informed consent for the exploitation of their personal data. This is often due to their excessive length and unnecessary complexity.

The Science and Technology Committee has called on the Information Commissioner to develop a set of information standards whereby websites and apps can commit themselves to explain how they use personal data in clear, concise and simple terms.

“Facebook’s experiment with users emotions highlighted serious concerns about the extent to which, ticking the terms and conditions box, can be said to constitute informed consent when it comes to the varied ways data is now being used by many websites and apps,” said Science and Technology Committee Chair Miller.
 
“Let’s face it, most people click yes to terms and conditions contracts without reading them, because they are often laughably long and written in the kind of legalese you need a law degree from the US to understand.

“Socially responsible companies wouldn’t want to bamboozle their users, of course, so we are sure most social media developers will be happy to sign up to the new guidelines on clear communication and informed consent that we are asking the government to draw up.”

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Miller added: “A line also needs to be drawn between the information that apps actually need to provide a service and the kind of personal information they often request when registering new users, information that is becoming increasingly valuable in our networked society. I hope that a voluntary system of guidelines can work, because, if not, legislation might be needed.”

It is vital that companies effectively communicate how they intend to use personal data collected from users of services and if terms and conditions cannot be made easier to understand then this must be explained separately. 

Andrew Miller MP concluded: “While we expect the government to encourage others to meet high standards, we also want to see it lead by example. The Government cannot dictate to others, when its own services, like care.data piloted by the NHS, have been found to be less than adequate. 

“The government must audit all public sector online services and ensure that they provide easy to understand information about their usage of personal data.”