Social media sites should drastically simplify their terms and conditions, according to a new report from the UK parliament’s Science and Technology Committee.
Running the risk of stating the obvious, MPs say the complexity of the terms and conditions means many users aren’t fully aware of how their data can be used.
The committee is calling on the UK government to work with the Information Commissioner to develop a new set of standards that websites and apps can sign up to, committing to explain how they use personal data in clear, concise and simple terms.
Andrew Miller MP, chair of the Science and Technology Committee says:
“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 USA 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.”
Facebook introduced a new ‘Privacy Basics’ section two weeks ago, ahead of introducing new terms and conditions.
The Science and Technology committee’s report suggests that an internationally-recognised Kitemark for apps and services that use customer’s data responsibly should be instituted.
Given that most popular social networks are headquartered abroad and predominantly governed by US law, it’s likely the UK will be able to do little more than encourage them to sign up to voluntary guidelines.
In fact, the committee seems to ignore the legal, political and business realities which social media sites operate under. The likelihood of getting inter-governmental agreement on a scheme to govern how social media sites use data and getting them all to sign up is lower than an a shamed politician admitting that their Twitter account wasn’t hacked.
The UK government also comes under fire in the report. The MPs conclude that its approach to online safety has been “piecemeal” and are particularly critical of the way NHS care data has been used. Earlier this month a study by Big Brother Watch suggested there are an average of six NHS data breaches a day.