Donald Trump weaponized fine-print to make it impossible to sue Wall Street for fraud

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In 1993, Donald Trump won a lawsuit brought by his investors that alleged he had defrauded them by lying in a prospectus; his defense was that his "perfect prospectus" contained lies, but it also contained enough fine-print cautioning investors about the possibility of lies that it was their own fault that he cheated them. Incredibly, the judge (a pre-Supreme Court Samuel Alito!) bought this. Read the rest

Why are license "agreements" so uniformly terrible?

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An excerpt from The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy, by Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz, coming this Friday from MIT Press.

Al Franken and FCC commissioner Clyburn want limits on forced arbitration

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Arbitration was conceived of as a way to allow giant corporations to avoid costly court battles by meeting with a mediator and talking things out: but since the Supreme Court ruled (in a series of mid-1980s cases) that companies could force their customers and employees into arbitration by adding "binding arbitration" clauses to the fine print in take-it-or-leave contracts, the US justice system has gone dark, which an ever-larger proportion of legal action disappearing into the opaque bowels of the arbitration system, where the richest participant usually wins. Read the rest

The privacy wars have been a disaster and they're about to get a LOT worse

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In my latest Locus column, The Privacy Wars Are About to Get A Whole Lot Worse, I describe the history of the privacy wars to date, and the way that the fiction of "notice and consent" has provided cover for a reckless, deadly form of viral surveillance capitalism. Read the rest

Pokemon Go players: you have 30 days from signup to opt out of binding arbitration

Like most other online services, Pokemon Go's terms of service are a reboot of the Book of Revelations, full of bizarre horrors, each more grotesque than the last. Read the rest

Empirical proof that Terms of Service are "the biggest lie on the Internet"

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In The Biggest Lie on the Internet: Ignoring the Privacy Policies and Terms of Service Policies of Social Networking Services, a working paper by a pair of university communications professors, students were asked to try out a new social networking site as beta-testers; in reality they were being evaluated to see whether they reviewed the site's terms of service and privacy policy in any detail. Read the rest

Pokemon Go privacy rules are terrible (just like all your other apps)

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Pokemon Go wants access to your Google account (and thus your email and Google Docs) and its privacy policy is a Kafka-esque nightmare document that lets them collect every single imaginable piece of private information about your life and share it with pretty much anyone they want to, forever. Read the rest

Rebate for IoT thermostat requires that you give permission to your utility to read "all data"

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Aaron writes, "While filling out this seemingly great rebate for $100 for a recently purchased wifi-enabled thermostat, I happened to read the Terms and Conditions, which includes the fact that I must unwittingly agree to share all my thermostat data with my electric and gas companies (It was odd that they asked for my thermostat's MAC address). Because I have an ecobee3, this includes information on how often I'm in my bedroom, or when I'm home or out!" Read the rest

Class action: publishers paid writers "sale" royalties on ebooks whose fine-print says they're "licensed"

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When you sign a publishing deal, the contract spells out different royalty rates for different kinds of commercial activity; you get so much every time a copy is sold, and significantly more from every licensing deal for the book. Read the rest

Norwegian Consumer Council broadcasts live, marathon reading of app Terms of Service

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As I type this, the consumer rights organization has been broadcasting its live-reading of terms of service for Instagram, YouTube, Kindle, Spotify, Snapchat and other popular apps for more than one day and eight hours. Read the rest

Airbnb stealth-updates terms of service, says it's not an insurer and requires binding arbitration

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The March 29 edition of Airbnb's terms of service requires that people who rent out their homes acknowledge that despite the company's widely advertised Host Protection Insurance program, "you understand and agree that Airbnb does not act as an insurer." Read the rest

Spacefaring and contractual obligations: who's with me?

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I keep having to sign contracts where I waive all rights "throughout the universe." Lately, I've been crossing out "universe" and writing in "solar system." Read the rest

Vtech, having leaked 6.3m kids' data, has a new EULA disclaiming responsibility for the next leak

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Last December, Vtech, a crapgadget/toy company, suffered a breach that implicated the data of 6.3 million children, caused by its negligence toward the most basic of security measures. Read the rest

Maryland's Attorney General: you consent to surveillance by turning on your phone

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Maryland attorney general Brian E Frosh has filed a brief appealing a decision in the case of Kerron Andrews, who was tracked by a Stingray cell-phone surveillance device. Read the rest

Inspired Christmas baubles for a surveillance business-model Xmas

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Remember when Internet Person JWZ began to append sarcastic messages to the "This building monitored by CCTV" sign that appeared without warning in his lobby ("FEAR THE UNKNOWN - MONSTERS ARE REAL" "DON'T SUSPECT YOUR NEIGHBOR: REPORT HIM!" "DRONE STRIKES AUTHORIZED 7PM - 5AM")? Eventually he got bored of it, but he's brought it back this Xmas, in Christmas Bauble form. Read the rest

Itunes terms and conditions as a graphic novel in many cartoonists' styles

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Artist Robert Sikoryak is creating a full-length graphic novel based on the terms and conditions for Apple's Itunes, a novella-length document of eye-watering legalese that you "agree" to without ever reading. Read the rest

Snowden broke a nondisclosure EULA in order to uphold his Constitutional oath

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The crooks that Edward Snowden outed (and their complicit overseers in government) like to talk about how Snowden violated an oath when he gave journalists documents that established that security services in at least five countries were breaking their own laws in order to pursue unimaginably aggressive mass surveillance. Read the rest

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