Social media data and user consent

In the UK there are calls for greater transparency in the collection of user data.

In 2010 GameStation added a new clause to its terms and conditions.  The change stated that by accepting the terms and conditions, the user’s immortal soul would be owned by the company.  Based on the number of users who clicked 'accept' the company estimated that 88% of users did not read terms and conditions documentation.

A report to the UK’s Science and Technology Committee, (Responsible Use of Data) states that social network sites should be more transparent about the data they are collecting from users.

The Report acknowledges the potential value of the effective use of social media data – not just economically but also in the development of evidence-based public policy.  However, the Report finds that users are neither fully informed of how their data may be used or what do to if they want to challenge the use of their data.  In particular, the complexity of social media terms and conditions contracts is a real cause for concern.

“More complex than Shakespeare”

According to Sir Nigel Shadbolt, social media contracts are "totally impenetrable….[and]  more complex than Shakespeare".  The report declares that they are not fit for purpose.

The report calls for the UK government to think more strategically, and become more active, in its approach to online safety.  "Future prosperity will be impacted by how well information flows between government, citizens and business. The Government needs to begin work so that all of its citizens have firm and secure foundations from which to build their online functionality".

Other recommendations

  • Companies should explain why they need to acquire and use personal information
  • UK government to provide good practice guidelines to companies
  • Government should revisit international agreements to ensure that they protect UK citizens
  • An internationally recognised kitemark should be developed

Sources: SocialMediaToday; UK Parliament.