How many pages of ToS and Privacy Policies?

So, I started this thought experiment: let’s assume for the moment that government is completely trustworthy, only has your interests at heart and doesn’t secretly sell you out to whoever they feel like. Now, on top of that, what about the agreements you enter into with corporations? How long are they and could you properly understand all the implications to your privacy and give informed consent?

So… I started with when I left home. I got on a Virgin Flight, they have a privacy policy which is eight pages. I then arrived in New Zealand and filled out a customs form. I could not find anything about what the New Zealand customs service could do with that information, but let’s just assume they’re publishing it all on the internet and selling it to the highest bidder. The other alternative is that they follow the New Zealand Privacy act, which is a mere 182 pages.

Once getting through customs I turned on my phone. The basics are probably covered by the New Zealand Telecommunications Privacy Code (35 pages) and since I was on Vodafone NZ, their three page privacy policy likely applies. Of course, I’m roaming, so the Vodafone Australia three page privacy policy also likely applies (of course, under a completely different legal framework). There’s likely things in the other agreements I have with Vodafone, the standard agreement summary is a mere 4 pages and the complete agreement is 84 pages.

I arrived at my hotel and the Langham privacy policy is two pages. I then log into Facebook, 30 pages of important things there, into Twitter, another 11 pages. My phone is all hooked up to Google Play, so that’s another 10 pages. I walk into the conference, the code of conduct is a single page which was a pleasant relief. I then log into work mail, and the GMail terms of service is three pages with a four page privacy policy.

If I was someone who used the iTunes, it would be reasonable that I would watch something in the hotel room – another 24 pages of agreement before then deciding to call home, carefully reading the full 20 pages of Skype terms of service and privacy policy.

In total, that’s 428 pages.

This excludes any license agreements to the operating system you’re using on your laptop, phone and all the application software. It also excludes whatever agreement you enter into about the CCTV footage of you in the taxi to and from the airport.

So, my question to the panel at OSDC was: how on earth is the average consumer meant to be able to make an informed decision and give their informed consent to any of this?

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