Ringing the bell

Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

Yesterday I wrote about the value of personal data and how the value of data may change over time depending on law evolution.

A few days ago, Amazon revealed it has provided Ring footage to law enforcement without a warrant or asking for permission from the Ring owner.

The Ring is a smart doorbell. Someone comes close to your doll, and Ring notifies your smartphone about the event. You can remotely look at the visitor and decide what to do. The video streamed to the phone is recorded on the Amazon cloud.

The first reaction is anger. Why is Amazon giving my footage to law enforcement without my explicit permission?

You agreed to that when you accepted the Ring Terms of Service. It’s your fault, not theirs. If you forgot to read the document or you want to have a look at it, you can find it here: Ring Terms of Service

Here is the crucial section: In addition to the rights granted above, you also acknowledge and agree that Ring may access, use, preserve and/or disclose your Content to law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or third parties, if legally required to do so or if we have a good faith belief that such access, use, preservation or disclosure is reasonably necessary to…

You agreed to share your content without permission.

Apart from agreeing to share your personal data with a vendor in exchange for a specific service, you should also be aware of the usage of that data.

We all subscribe to dozens of online services. Do we read the Terms and Conditions of each one of those services? No, we just click and move on to the next steps. I do the same every single time.

You have your new gadget ready to use, and you don’t want to spend literally hours going through a legal document. You want to start playing with your new toys.

Terms and Conditions and End User License Agreement are written in a way that is not understandable by most people. Not everybody is a lawyer.

Nevertheless, these documents are critical to understanding which degree of freedom on your data you are giving to the service provider.

They must be read and understood.

I remember working for a client that was building a service requiring users to accept the sharing of some of their personal data from a mobile phone. We received the End User License Agreement from the legal team, which was the usual twenty pages document. We went to the Product Owner and told him: “Look, you need user consent to make your service work. We must be clear with him about what we will use and why.”

We designed a page with the legal terms on the left and an understandable translation on the right. The “Accept” button was on the left side of the page.

This approach indeed implies total transparency from the service provider. Not every service provider may be willing to do so, especially if they plan some gray use of the data they collect from you.

There should be an Artificial Intelligence powered online service where you paste a legal document and get back a human-understandable version of the paper.

The only option is to read the original document thoroughly, which we should always do.

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