Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Terms and Conditions May Apply, Unevenly and Sporadically
anyone check the fine print when they voted for Obama? Those of us who did not click “I agree” are
wondering if it said “will freely rummage through your e-mail and track your
every digital move.” Cullen Hoback occasionally
expresses a bit of (presumed) voter’s remorse when surveying the state of
internet privacy in Terms and Conditions
May Apply (trailer
opens this Friday in New York.
talk a progressive game, but Google and Facebook clearly emerge as the dastardly
villains of Hoback’s documentary. It is
not just that they collect and disseminate users’ data. They changed the rules in the middle of the
game. For new sign-ups, it might be
spelled out in black-and-white, but in small all-cap sans-serif type. Users are not supposed to read those unwieldy
terms and conditions and they don’t.
TACMA spreads its
outrage far and wide at the expense of the core issues under discussion—the fine
print. The question what users are
agreeing to would be pertinent even if the NSA never existed. As a case in point I have heard of but never
verified, musicians reportedly using a European website to host their scores as
means promoting their music reportedly signed away their publishing rights in
the process. Aside from privacy
concerns, just what sort of intellectual property implications do those terms
and conditions secretly hold? Frustratingly, TACMA never delves into such territory.
Hoback is rather disturbed that Facebook, Google, and Yahoo are so willing to
funnel information to the government.
However, his tone-deafness is rather laughable when he calls on
Anonymous hacker-spokesman Barrett Brown to bemoan the death of privacy. Of course, Pres. George W. Bush is frequently
invoked as a bogeyman, but Hoback reluctantly admits things are the same or
perhaps worse under Obama. Indeed, he
rightly points out the current administration has criminally prosecuted more
government whistleblowers than all its predecessors combined.
More focus and a truly nonpartisan approach
would have strengthened TACMA’s
case. (Red herrings like the UK
phone-hacking scandal, apparently thrown in to give Rupert Murdoch a good
tsk-tsking, frankly do the online privacy cause a disservice.) The real truth is only a Libertarian like
Rand Paul or Gary Johnson will curtail such wholesale data collection if
elected, but perhaps Hoback can’t handle the truth. A mixed but timely bag of facts and
anecdotes, Terms and Conditions May Apply
should at least prompt some pointed questions when it opens this Friday
(7/12) in New York at the Quad Cinema.
Labels: Documentary, Google