App-surdity? Norway readathon takes aim at app terms and conditions

  • AFP, Oslo
  • Updated: May 25, 2016 18:55 IST
In order to demonstrate the T&C’s complexity, an agency has asked consumers to read out the terms and conditions live (Apple)

What exactly do we agree to when we download a smartphone app? To prove the “absurdity” of lengthy terms and conditions, some Norwegians are reading those of 33 apps, from Tinder to iTunes, in a live two-day readathon.

The user terms and conditions of the 33 applications typically found on a Norwegian smartphone amount to 260,000 words, or 900 pages, according to Norway’s consumer protection agency, making them a lengthier read than the New Testament.

In order to demonstrate the texts’ complexity, the agency has asked consumers to read out the terms and conditions live on its site.

“The aim is to demonstrate that the user terms for internet services, apps or other, are very bad,” head of the agency’s digital services section, Finn Myrstad, told AFP.

“They’re too long and unintelligible.”

Users were reading the conditions for Twitter, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Gmail, Skype, Instagram and Angry Birds among others.

By midday at Wednesday, they had been reading for 27 hours, and were expected to continue for a few more hours.

“Imagine if all the users in the world who have a smartphone were to spend more than 30 hours (reading). That’s more than four days of work just to read the user terms and conditions on a smartphone,” Myrstad said.

Among the conditions posing the greatest concern were those granting “perpetual” or “irrevocable” licenses to the other party, he said.

“This means, in practice, that the content of your app, whether it’s your photos or your chats, will forever belong to the company. That’s totally unacceptable and violates European and Norwegian law,” Myrstad said.

The Norwegian consumer protection agency is a world leader in confidentiality issues. It recently criticised the French online dating service Happn and popular jogging app Runkeeper for collecting and transmitting users’ data even when the apps are inactive or uninstalled.

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