What can happen if you don’t read the small print

Always read the small print

Face it, how many of us read the full document before we press the “I agree” button? Few do, and that’s the reason we can find ourself in precarious situations. Such an example is the recent complaint against Google.

It is by no means the first time that Google finds itself with numerous complaints about its privacy practices. The most recent issue revolved around Australian software developer, Dan Nolan who has discovered that he has access to the personal information of users who download his Android app in the Google Play store.

In his blog, Nolan described that he had access to full customer names, email addresses and a few postal codes, neither of them received through a software glitch. Instead, the data had been made available due to an existing policy for the application store.

According to Nolan: “This is a massive oversight by Google. Under no circumstances should I be able to get the information of the people who are buying my apps unless they opt into it and it’s made crystal clear to them that I’m getting this information.”

Nolan is concerned that Google has not informed most of their customers about the exposure of their personal data. They shouldn’t try to hide this fact, nor should they make it difficult for the client to understand.

Through an emailed response, Google stated that “Google Wallet shares the information needed to process transaction, and this is clearly stated in the Google Wallet Privacy Notice.”

In response, Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Centre, said: “Meaningful content is about understanding what they’re getting into. It’s not about tricking them. In a situation like this, where people just don’t know what information is being transferred or who its going to or for what purpose, it seems ridiculous to say that Google has consent.”

Partly, we are to blame

Not reading the terms and conditions, no matter how small the letter type, could always lead to big problems. It is through this print that a company’s contractual rights are defined. In a 2011 study by Skandia, it was found that only seven per cent of Britons read the terms and conditions before signing up for a product or service.

Nearly six in ten adults would rather read an instruction manual or utility credit card bill than go through the terms – especially online. More than 12 per cent even said they would rather read a phone book.

So, in the Nolan case, although Google neglected to inform users more clearly where their information goes, they didn’t make sure their data wouldn’t go anywhere, either.

Wether its a firm you trust, or an online store you are downloading an app from, don’t assume. There’s only one way to go when you buy something: making sure you’ve read the small print, no matter how tedious.  

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