When did anyone last read the Terms and Conditions when signing up to use a website, app. or piece of software? I confess to having the occasional skim but generally I ‘Accept’ and move on. The reason for not properly reading T&Cs is it is most likely that I wouldn’t understand them and anyway they are usually inordinately long – I simply don’t have the time. But perhaps we should have the inclination.
While reading the Children’s Commissioner for England’s report on ‘Growing up Digital’ which looks at the challenges of being a young person in our digital age I came across some research about T&Cs. Instagram’s Terms and Conditions run to 5000 words and is 17 pages long should anyone chose to print it out. Well it was printed and shown to some teenagers (the most likely users of Instagram) and they were asked to read it. It didn’t take them long to down tools complaining among other things that “you have to take 10 minutes on each sentence”. These were not young people who couldn’t decode the written word, this was simply a huge document packed with legalese. Passing the document through the Flesch-Kincaid readability test (which you can find within MS Word), where a ‘Plain English’ document should score 7 matching the reading ability of an average 12-13 year old, this document scored 31 and is therefore ‘best understood by university graduates’! So Instagram are insisting on us signing up to terms which none of us are likely to comprehend. Why might that be?
The Instagram terms were passed by the Children’s Commissioner to the law firm Schillings and they were asked to produce a simplified version. I have posted them below.
This 900 word document was given to the young people who could read it with ease. Some of them were shocked to understand what they were signing up to. It felt a bit like signing their souls away. There is an argument for making all T&Cs in Plain English so that everyone can all consider whether they want to give away so much personal data in return for using software.
INSTAGRAM TERMS: Our Rules if you want to use Instagram
- You have to be 13 or over.
- Don’t post anything showing violence, or that might make other people feel scared, or any images that contain nudity.
- Don’t use anybody else’s account without their permission or try to find out their login details.
- Don’t let anyone else use your account.
- Keep your password secret.
- Don’t bully anyone or post anything horrible about people.
- Don’t post other peoples’ private or personal information.
- Don’t use Instagram to do anything illegal or that we tell you not to.
- If you want to add a website to your username, make sure you get permission from Instagram first.
- Don’t change anything about our website or applications, upload any type of virus or do anything that might interfere with the way Instagram works. Don’t send us ideas on how to improve Instagram.
- Don’t use any type of software or robot to create accounts or access Instagram, and don’t send spam or unwanted emails.
- Read our Community Guidelines and obey them when using Instagram.
- Don’t do anything that might affect how other people use and enjoy Instagram.
- Don’t encourage anyone to break these rules.
YOUR RIGHTS AND OUR RIGHTS
- You have the right to feel safe using Instagram.
- Officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world. Other people might pay us to use them and we will not pay you for that.
- You are responsible for anything you do using Instagram and anything you post, including things you might not expect such as usernames, data and other peoples’ music.
- It will be assumed that you own what you post, and what you post does not break the law. If it does, and you are fined, you will have to pay that fine.
- Although you are responsible for the information you put on Instagram, we may keep, use and share your personal information with companies connected with Instagram. This information includes your name, email address, school, where you live, pictures, phone number, your likes and dislikes, where you go, who your friends are, how often you use Instagram, and any other personal information we find such as your birthday or who you are chatting with, including in private messages (DMs).
- Instagram is also not responsible for: - Links on Instagram from companies or people we do not control, even if we send those links to you ourselves. - What happens if you connect your Instagram account to another app or website, for instance by sharing a picture, and the other app does something with it or takes your personal details. - The cost of any data you use while using Instagram. - If your photos are lost or stolen from Instagram.
- Although Instagram is not responsible for what happens to you or your data while you use Instagram, we do have many powers: - We might send you adverts connected to your interests which we are monitoring. You cannot stop us doing this and it will not always be obvious that it is an advert. - We can change or end Instagram, or stop you accessing Instagram at any time, for any reason and without letting you know in advance. We can also delete posts and other content randomly, without telling you, for any reason. If we do this, we will not be responsible for paying out any money and you won’t have any right to complain. - We can force you to give up your username for any reason. - We can, but do not have to, remove, edit, block and/or monitor anything posted or any accounts that we think breaks any of these rules. We are not responsible if somebody breaks the law or breaks these rules; but if you break them, you are responsible. You should use common sense and your best judgment when using Instagram.
- Although you do not own your data, we do own ours. You may not copy and paste Instagram logos or other stuff we create, or remove it or try to change it.
- You can close your Instagram account by logging into Instagram and completing this form: https://instagram.com/accounts/remove/request/. If you do, your photos, posts and profile will disappear from your account but if anyone has shared your photos or personal details, or if we have used them ourselves for any reason, they might still appear on Instagram. We will also keep all the data we already have from you and can use it as explained in paragraph 5 above.
- We can change these rules whenever we like by posting an update on Instagram, whether you notice it or not.
Worth a read: Growing up Digital – a report of the Growing up Digital Task Force, Children’s Commissioner for England. Find it on the website.