Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013) Poster

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Important and frightening
Shuggy4 August 2013
This is an important and frightening film, about how Google, Amzaon, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkdin - and IMDb? - harvest our personal information and onsell it to the highest bidder, or to the government. How we don't read that wodge of text in capitals comprising "Terms and conditions" before we click "Accept" - nobody could, it would take a month per year for everything we sign. But even when that text is brief and written in plain English, it gives those corporations unprecedented power over our personal information - including the right to change the rules without telling us, to increase their power without limit and without asking again, and to keep it forever, even after we have "deleted" it.

The film is entertaining, including how a seven year old boy was interrogated about something he had texted; how an Irishman on holiday in the US never got into the country but spent days in confinement instead, because he had used "destroy America" as a figure of speech in a tweet; how people planning a zombie parade during the Royal Wedding were arrested based on the social media planning; and how a TV crime writer was raided based on his Google searches.

I saw this a few days after "We Steal Secrets: the story of Wikileaks". It is the better film, letting the facts speak for themselves more.

And now I'm getting paranoid about what will happen to me for writing this....
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Clear your schedule or check a box and proceed - your choice
StevePulaski25 September 2013
With the rise of the internet, and technology in general, it's no surprise in the influx of documentaries concerning internet freedoms and the legalities of businesses that operate or function heavily online. Intersecting themes with these documentaries are usually personal freedoms, human rights, and a mindset heavily emphasizing individualism and personal accountability. With the recent NSA leak and the upcoming film The Fifth Estate, focusing on WikiLeaks and the Julian Assange controversy, don't expect this topic to go away any time soon.

Terms and Conditions May Apply focuses on that lengthy, disgustingly long wall of text you're greeted with every time you register for a website, be it Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, EBay, etc. Consider iTunes, a service I have not used in about four years but one I have fond memories of. The service would update its terms and conditions roughly every five months and you'd be met with immediately when you'd try and buy a song or a piece of media after the new terms and conditions were enacted. All you had to do was check a box saying "I agree" and you could proceed with buying the song. My question: who took the time to read that gargantuan wall of text? Most of it, from what I assumed because hey, I never read it, was legal jargon and stating how I consent to not downloading or illegally distributing this property without written/expressed consent from whatever party in an absurdly verbose fashion. I didn't care and I don't think a lot of people did.

But if you were to quiz me on what I was agreeing to, I wouldn't have a clue. How ignorant is that? I couldn't tell you any website's privacy policy and I'm a member of over ten mainstream sites. Director Cullen Hoback elaborates on just what we're agreeing to and how it can be used against us.

Consider Gamestation, a website that, for one day, stated in its terms and conditions that by agreeing to this wall of text you'd be handing over your immortal soul to the site. In one day, the site collected thousands of souls. It's an obvious joke, but what if something was hidden in the terms and conditions, surrounded and barricaded by a wall of unrefined, wordy, confusing text that would have a serious impact if it was put into effect? It's a frightening thought, but it's usually a deeply subconscious thought that becomes even more hidden when you're playing that song on iTunes or updating your profile on Facebook.

The film explores privacy policies and what the government and specific companies can see on the internet. Essentially, they can see everything. The opening line of the film is a haunting one stating, "anything that has been digitized is not private and that's the scary thing." Interviews are conducted with sociologists, journalists - one of whom Barrett Brown, who has appeared in numerous internet documentaries and is now imprisoned - and many others who state that the internet has become an invaluable resource while simultaneously an intricate tool that can just as easily be used against people.

Statistics noting that companies have lost $250 billion due to fine print lawsuits and it would take you around one-hundred and eighty hours to read the privacy policies of every site you're a member of. The latter statistic reminds me of a bill that is halted in the U.S. Congress at this time called the "Read the Bills Act," which, if signed into law, would make it a requirement for Congress to, well, read the bills before they pass them. Ignore the disgusting fact that we need a bill passed for Congress to do their primary job, but what could be the reason that a bill like this needs to exist? One of my guesses is that maybe the bills are bulky and overly-long, leading to much dismay and tedium when reading and analyzing them. Perhaps this is a call for shorter legislation and terms and conditions; ones that are more simple and to-the-point rather than being daunting legal contracts that intimidate rather than inform.

Terms and Conditions May Apply is a good film, albeit far too short. Hoback makes a great case for internet activism and an internet that remains open and constructed by the people rather than by corporations and big government, and things even take a surprisingly personal turn at the end when Hoback attempts to get a word in with Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the website Facebook. The biggest achievement of the documentary, however, is that it's seventy-nine minutes long but doesn't deserve the "pamphlet" term I assign to documentaries that take a micro-look at a macro-subject. This is more of a very organized, moderately elaborate Cliff Notes version of a subject.

Directed by: Cullen Hoback.
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An Interesting Look At Privacy in the Digital Age
gavin694223 May 2014
A documentary that exposes what corporations and governments learn about people through Internet and cell phone usage, and what can be done about it ... if anything.

When I decided to watch this, the first thing I thought of was the "South Park" human centipede episode. And sure enough, a clip is shown almost immediately. Great to see these guys have a sense of humor (heck, they even have Willy Wonka and Eddie Izzard).

There are plenty of statistics about how long it would take to read all the fine print that no one really does and how much it is allegedly costing us to agree to these "hidden in plain sight" conditions.

We get a bit of a look at the Patriot Act's effect on privacy laws, and an even briefer mention of PRISM (which, unfortunately, makes the film a bit dated already, even only a year after it was made). There are even examples of people getting arrested by authorities for their Facebook and Twitter posts. (And one guy -- the "steak and cheese" author -- who did not!)

Does the film spread paranoia? Does it make Mark Zuckerberg the enemy? To the first question, no. While constantly on the verge of going too far, the film never does, and makes many valid points without ever sounding like a conspiracy theory. As to the second, this is more unclear. Zuckerberg is suggested to be too close to the FBI and other organizations, and certainly Facebook's privacy settings come under attack. But this is only a superficial reading -- the real message is that all tech companies, not just Facebook, are now going this route.
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Thought Provoking!
reachmallya24 September 2013
Is privacy dead? Let us get this under control before it is too late. Frightening and thought provoking. Makes me wonder what Indian govt. is doing in this area if at all it is. An eye-opener sort of documentary which deserves more than one time watch especially while we are in this era where in most of us are making digital transactions. Impact of this? I was entertained, stunned but on the other side this made me realize that I better be careful on what I post, mail and tweet. The film-maker has done extensive research and is clear on where and on what context this film needs to pitch in. He has intelligently made use of found footage, interviews of target victims. And yes, you need guts to get Mark Zuckerberg on the camera and confront him and get him say what you want. This probably is one of the major highlight of this film.
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If use Facebook, Google, internet, or smart phone... Watch it!
mxmtitov12 July 2018
I'll be brief. We're all being watched. Every second of our life. And I'm not exaggerating or being paranoid. That's just how it is. This documentary is really scary. And for a good reason. Because it is freaking scary.

Facebook and smart phones is the best invention NSA could hope for. Imagine that with just the right technology, anyone can tap into your phone and at any point of time they can see through your phone, they can hear through your phone, and even know what you're thinking at the moment. All their wet voyeuristic dreams come true.

So do yourself a favor, watch the movie, realize the truth, and join the forces to fight against mass surveillance.
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timewaster64 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I simply love this film!I saw it last night at the Aruba International Film Festival. I'm Leo's friend (short guy) that told you to go to "Jimmies Bar" ha-ha. But holy crap! This movie was really interesting! I find you have balls for actually visiting the Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg at his own house. There's nobody crazy enough that would do that type of thing. It's still scary to know that the government takes our private information as it were nothing. I mean we all have our rights, right? So why not stand up!? We should all stand up for ourselves. Keep up the good work, bro(& crew).


-Amin Croes
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New Age STALKERS....Is PRIVACY dead ??? .......Absolutely !
kellwyn862 October 2014
This is a brilliantly researched excellent feature !

Your privacy has been compromised to the very core the moment you created an account with any of the following...facebook, google, gmail, twitter, iphone etc...

What does one feel about hacking ?

What does one feel about being spied on ?

Would you say the same things when whatever you say is being recorded ?

Whoever you talk to, including your private and personal conversations over the phone are being recorded and heard by another unknown human being who can use every word you say to condemn you anytime !

Well boys n girls... welcome to the world of cookies and the internet !

Choose ur words carefully...its not free after-ALL !!!
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Brilliant documentary about internet site terms and policies
thatiguanodon25 April 2017
I think that we should be entitled to privacy and are entitled to have our rights without having fear for what we post on the internet. In fact most of the data that we type in on the internet can be constantly be misused, and that our right to freedom is in jeopardy. There should be some new laws to protect citizens of not being reprimanded of what they post on the internet. This is a well-crafted documentary that raises awareness of what is really going on when you click the "I Agree" options of the 'Terms and Conditions' of various websites.
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A Doc Ahead of the Curve, But Hampered By a Libertarian Bias
Marc_Horrickan26 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Another tricksy hot-topic tech documentary, in which Cullen Hoback interviews a handful of hacktivists, academics and libertarian thinkers about the nexus of social media and personal privacy.

Hoback has effectively dedicated his career, thus far, to exclusively covering the life led on-line. Here he puts himself slightly ahead of the curve, by drawing attention to the ways in which corporations such as Google and Facebook use their Terms and Conditions in ways that are increasingly aligned with governmental security interests and advertising.

Key contributors such as Chris Soghoian and Rainey Reitman, outline some of the liberties that populations sacrifice for access to 'free' on-line services. While Hoback supplements this spade work with some more glamorous, if far less revealing, brief commentaries from the likes of Moby, Margaret Atwood and Orson Scott Card.

Facebook and Google are very much in Hoback's cross-hairs, with Eric Schmidt's every pronouncement as CEO of the latter being raked over for portentous signs of futureshock horror. Mark Zuckerberg gives Holback his little Michael Moore moment, as he manages to locate the aloof Facebook founder and doorstop him into asking for his own privacy to be respected. It is a cheap shot, but one that underscores Holback's central point about where the genuine consent and respect lies in the relationship between on-line media and their users / consumers.

What I can't entirely shake-off with films such as this, or THE CORPORATION for another example, is that their central narrative, oscillating between consciousness-raising and fear-mongering, is underpinned by a libertarian sensibility that isn't anti-statist without possessing a more anarchic critique of the state. Holback is more than a little complacent in his belief that his film sufficiently engages with an issue that has only become more pressing since 2013.
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Excellent review of social and political problems regarding digital privacy
dnrobbin14 May 2014
Excellent review of the political and social changes in *digital* privacy for the past 13 years since 9/11. The director goes into great detail on how Websites have constantly shifted toward acquiring and disseminating more information as time has gone on since 9/11 and how this information can, and is, being revealed to the government on a regular basis. What is more disturbing is how much we thought that either a password or a privacy change on Facebook to "Friends Only" doesn't actually protect us, totally, from government or corporate dissemination of who we are.

The director also points out the substantial moral problem of when we are allowed to forget our secrets and to let them lie in our past. 5 years? 10 years? 3 months? When are we entitled to have those embarrassing pictures taken at age 14 taken off the Internet search engine results (from, say, Google)? When it's been 10 years? What about adults? Do they deserve to have privacy of past-acts (good conduct or misconduct)? This is a matter not currently under substantial discussion in the Congress and the director points out that Congress is the only legislature in the US that can adequately make laws on these subjects.

Again, worth seeing once so that you learn what exactly those "terms" are that you agreed to.
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One of the best Documentaries I've ever watched
charrielyfe31 July 2014
No wonder Netflix was promoting this documentary so hard. My girlfriend watched it first and quickly recommended it to me. It truly is one of the best documentaries I've ever watched, and in my Top 5!

I'll be re-watching it again next week, so hopefully I can add a bit more to the review once I re-watch it.

Firstly - The graphics, animations and typography used were wonderful, it really complimented the well thought out and structured film.

It gave an easy to view look at how the world is changing, and how these big companies/government agencies are a real threat to our privacy. The ONE thing missing from this Documentary, was how we (the people) can fight back against this kind of privacy violations, but then again.. can we fight back at all?
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Relevant even today in 2020
cseabhi11 September 2020
Anyone who surf the internet or part of the digitized world should watch this documentary, which holds importance even today, seven year after the documentary released. This is an interesting take on Digital privacy and how the corporates uses your data
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Very good work
amirma-789825 June 2021
A documentary which supposed to be watched By everyone.

Amount of informations and facts about internet security are amazing.
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Nothing free's really that free, eh?
Giz_Medium1 November 2020
First movie screened at the cinema politica at concordia university, this documentary aims at exposing the situation in between political and economic gains related to the licencing terms we never read, especially since the wide-spread use of the internet, with some like google we never get to actually tick. We kinda knew about it : I mean, google and facebook aren't asking for money but are worth billions, so they have to make money from somewhere, selling back our informations. And since the movie was actually released after the NSA leaks, we also knew the scope of the current global surveillance in many countries, putting it forward than what the movie actually showed, even though their research on the subject, and on the history of the lack of individual liberty advocacy due to the patriotAct and need of spying of the war on terrorism, making the economic model of users creating value while using "free" tools, the policies of "by default" settings. Good documentary, especially to share with your annoying friends who put useless statements against facebook's change of policies.
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Privacy is dead?
famefutfaker14 April 2017
This spirited documentary weaves through popular television and movie clips, privacy experts and interviews with those who've shared too much on the Internet and, consequently, landed on the wrong side of the law. No one gets off scott-free, especially not Mark Zuckerberg whom Hoback confronts in a darkly comedic conversation at the film's climax. Hoback told AFP: "I just wanted him to say, 'Look, I don't want you to record me,' and I wanted to say, 'Look, I don't want you to record us.'"
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