Website Contracts--Not Much of a Choice

Let's see a show of hands- do you read Terms of Service? Privacy Policies? Or Click Agreements? I routinely ask audiences this question and rarely do I ever get any hands raised. My recent Technology Law column in eCommerce Times entitled "Who Reads Terms of Service, Privacy Policies or Click Agreements?" identifies many legal issues concerning website contracts. Every fall since 2000 I've taught a course on the Law of eCommerce at the SMU Dedman School of Law and every fall I find that virtually none of my students have ever considered reviewing Terms of Service, Privacy Policies, or Click Agreements. But by the end of the semester they routinely review these contract terms. I was pleased to see a former student from 2004 recently who told me that he regularly reviews these contract provisions. The irony of not reviewing these contract provisions is that people have no idea what legal rights and privacy they may be giving up.

FTC and Privacy

The Federal Trade Commission regulates privacy in the US and if a website does not have a Privacy Policy that's okay but if there is a Privacy Policy the website must follow its promises to website visitors. Since so few people review Terms of Use, Privacy Policies, and Click Agreements the FTC is considering making changes to US privacy laws particularly regarding the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. However in the meantime until the US privacy laws are changed, websites have pretty much a free hand since no seems care.

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