‘Click through’ to hell

Posted on October 14, 2010


‘Click Through’ is as much a part of digital life as giving ones name to a receptionist or when making a phone call, but the implications are far more worrying.

‘Click Through’ being the terms and conditions or changed usage rights prompts that users get confronted with as they consume online services, be it Google, Apple iTunes, Facebook, Salesforce etc. A box pop’s up and user clicks the ‘Accept’.

In a recent straw poll we did 95% of users simply ‘Click Through’, giving little regard to what that simple click is doing, unaware that each time they as a user are entering into a contractual arrangement with little regard for what they are actually exposing themselves to.

Let me take a random sample from one of the more visible and widely used services:

“….Google in its reasonable discretion may determine, reserves the right …to modify, suspend or discontinue the Service…Customer agrees that Google shall not be liable to Customer…for any modification, suspension or termination of the Service.”

As of the time of writing this in effect leaves any user or Business without a leg to stand on should Goggle decide to effect or terminate their services, and in so doing terminate or effect the services of businesses reliant on their platforms.

Before the Internet I know of NO business which would accept such terms of engagement. Why now with Cloud Computing should users and businesses be treated as disposable and malleable commodities?

Until business and users start to push back against such terms and conditions the transition of power and control will continue to seep from organisations into the hands of external parties, with little remedy for the effected parties should their service impact their customers or businesses?

If Cloud Computing is to mature this must also be driven by the service providers themselves, to build in more transparent conduits of information exchange offering greater transparency of service, purpose and intent.

Cloud Computing means that external service providers are in effect becoming part of an organisations Virtual IT department. In the same way that I would expect my IT department to inform me across a range of metrics as to any impact son my business, so to Cloud providers need to adapt their stance with their customers.

It is no longer acceptable not to be able to pick up the phone and get a REAL PERSON, try that with Google or Amazon! Microsoft seem to have got the message, with their Online Services I have never had such a rich human interactive response to an online support ticket, they call me to chase down support. That is what I mean by a new age of service and trustworthiness, a provider who engages me proactively.

‘Click Through’ has another pernicious side to it in privacy terms. There is a value exchange in many ‘Click Through’ scenario’s that are just about 100% weighted AGAINST the end user or business.

‘Click Through’ as I have stated is like signing a contract, and as such warranties and burdens are adopted. Online these are almost always end user warranties and burdens of behaviour and practise that few give regard to, and by default the service provider mitigates their responsibilities and accountabilities giving them control over you and your assets.

‘Click Through’ invariably transfers a right of information retention and usage, be it behavioural systems usage tracking (under a service improvement pretext) or something more invidious such as semantic analytical harvesting and data mining of user data exchanges a Google favourite. The carrot is often a free service exchange, but is this a fair value exchange when a user’s or organisations data is then transacted with external marketing and advertising organisation? Which it invariably is!

The ultimate litmus test is a request for ones data to be expunged by a service provider at the termination of a service. Only then do you suddenly come up against the cold realities of what information you have ‘given away’. At an individual level, worrying enough, but for companies with compliance obligations to their employees and customers it is time to wake up and smell the bull-shit!