Click If You Agree

MediaSmarts’ New Online Game Helps Youth Make Sense of Privacy Policies

When you sign up for a service on a website or use an application for the first time, do you read the privacy policy and terms of use thoroughly? Or, like most of us, do you click “I Agree” as fast as you can?

Don’t feel bad: only 16 percent of adults[1] read these documents, probably because it would take about 76 days to read the privacy policies of all the websites that we visit in a year, let alone the terms of use[2].

Most of us do recognize, though, that these documents are extremely important because they spell out our rights, responsibilities and liabilities when using these sites, as well as the quantity and quality of our personal data that is collected and shared. There may even be special “hidden” clauses in some of these documents: for example, when – as an April Fools Day joke – a British online retailer added a clause to its terms and conditions giving them the right to claim their customer’s souls, thousands of people unknowingly agreed[3]. This humorous example reiterates the importance of knowing exactly what you’re signing up for before clicking that “I Agree” button.

“…like you know how they say ‘incorporated by blah, blah, blah?’ ‘produced by…’ I skip all that when I go into privacy policies. I read, like, the first paragraph. I’m, like, ‘ok anyways’.”

Teenage girl, Toronto

This is even more important when it comes to teens. Although we may think of youth as being “digital natives”, MediaSmarts’ research has shown that while young people are concerned about their privacy, few understand exactly what privacy policies and terms of use are and why they’re important[4]. This is concerning, given that the online experiences of Canadian youth overwhelmingly take place in commercial spaces: only one of the 10 most popular websites for Canadian children in 2013 — Wikipedia — was non-commercial[5]. Furthermore, developing skills to read and understand privacy policies and terms of use is also particularly important for young teens because with many sites and apps requiring that users be age 13 or older, these may be the first legal documents they ever agree to.

The fact is many privacy policies and terms of use contain clauses that all of us, young and old alike, need to know about. For example, can the terms be changed at any time without notifying you? Or does the company permanently own the rights to any content you submit or post on their platform? It seems like an impossible problem: we need to know what’s in these policies, but few of us have the time or the expertise to read them thoroughly.

MediaSmarts’ answer to this is Click if You Agree, an educational game that helps children between the ages of 12 and 14 develop the skills and confidence to read privacy policies and terms of use instead of blindly clicking on the “I Agree” button. This engaging resource emphasizes knowing how to identify which sections of a privacy policy or terms of use are most important and relevant, as well as understanding our rights as consumers. Because these policies are often written in legal language that can be hard to understand, Click if You Agree also familiarizes youth with best and worst practices to watch out for, shows them how to spot “red flags” that tell them to pay particular attention to a section, and provides plain-language translations of common elements (prepared by Éducaloi, a Quebec non-profit whose core mission is to explain the law in everyday language). The good news is that many young people do try to read privacy policies and terms of use and some sites popular with children, such as YouTube and Minecraft, have adopted policy documents that are written and organized in a much more reader-friendly way. Click if You Agree encourages young people to advocate for best practices like these, while at the same time, helps them practice and build the skills and confidence they need to find information in more complicated documents.

Click if You Agree has been developed in HTML5 and plays on most modern browsers. You can find it on MediaSmarts’ website here http://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy/educational-games/click-if-you-agree-grades-7-9, along with a Teacher’s Guide and tip sheets to support its use as an educational activity.

This project has been funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

 


[1] Internet Society, Global Internet User Survey 2012, 2012, https://www.internetsociety.org/internet/global-internet-user-survey-2012
[2] Madrigal, Alexis C., Reading the Privacy Policies You Encounter in a Year Would Take 76 Work Days, The Atlantic, March 1st, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/03/reading-the-privacy-policies-you-encounter-in-a-year-would-take-76-work-days/253851/
[3] Fox News, 7,500 Online Shoppers Unknowingly Sold Their Souls, April 15, 2010, http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2010/04/15/online-shoppers-unknowingly-sold-souls.html
[4] MediaSmarts, Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Talking to Youth and Parents about Life Online, 2012, http://mediasmarts.ca/sites/mediasmarts/files/publication-report/full/ycwwiii-youth-parents.pdf
[5] MediaSmarts, Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Life Online, 2014, http://mediasmarts.ca/sites/mediasmarts/files/pdfs/publication-report/full/YCWWIII_Life_Online_FullReport_2.pdf

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