HotDocs13: Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013)


Nearly everyone has at some point clicked the “I Agree” tab after skipping over a website or web software’s terms and conditions document. No one ever actually reads all the terms and conditions they are agreeing to. They’d likely be impossible to understand even if you did. However, people often don’t think about the rights they give away when they agree to these preposterous legal shenanigans.

Cullen Hoback’s Terms and Conditions May Apply attempts to address this lack of critical thought regarding Internet terms and conditions. It’s an activist film aimed at showing you how devious corporations and governments are when it comes to your online privacy. Using Facebook and Google as his main subjects, Hoback lays out how governments illegally utilize these resources as databases on their citizens. For instance, Facebook contains more personal info on a person than a lifetime of police surveillance would often uncover. Facebook then sells this info to companies who use it target you with their ads aimed at your specifics likes and experiences.

However, there are even more nefarious things being done with this info than capitalistic gain. Governments use this info to spy on you, to prosecute you for actions you haven’t yet taken, and keep tabs on your every online search and tweet. Terms and Conditions May Apply does a great job at making you paranoid about corporations and governments knowing far more about you than they legally should know. The film does engage in a bit of paranoid fear-mongering, and Hoback does make a common mistake of activist filmmakers by inserting himself into the doc with little stunts here and there. But the central argument of Terms and Conditions May Apply remains strong.

Terms and Conditions May Apply will make you want to run home and deactivate your Facebook and Google accounts. But as the film itself clearly points out, if you’ve already clicked the “I Accept” button, it’s too late. Corporations and governments already have your information, forever and always. We’re living in a world where Big Brother is real. You’re being watched. The Internet is a brilliant tool, but every brilliant tool can be also become a powerful weapon.

Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013)

Directed by Calum Hoback.

7 out of 10