Calls for social media sites to explain how they are using your data

Social media is such a common and integral part to our lives nowadays that most of us won’t think twice before using the services and ticking that all important terms and conditions box.

However, the majority of people won’t read the long list of terms and conditions because of the incredibly complex terminology that can go on for many pages. Social media sites are being told to change this, and make their policies more user friendly and accessible to people.

A report by the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee has highlighted this as an issue, amid concerns that the users who can’t engage with the long winded, legal speak can be unaware how their details can be used by the websites and apps that they sign up to.

The committee argues that the rules and regulations, terms and conditions which are set out on these long, long pages were designed for use in US courtrooms in order to protect the organisations, rather than to convey information to the users signing up for the services.

Of course, the scandalous experiment Facebook carried out earlier this year was brought up, the one in which it manipulated the stories people saw on their news feeds in order to see if their posts would be affected by emotional trends in the stories and posts that they saw.

Andrew Miller MP said that this kind of experiment, “Highlighted serious concerns about the extent to which ticking the ‘terms and conditions’ box can be said to constitute informed consent when it comes to the varied ways data is now being used by many websites and apps”.

The report called for the government to set up a standard which social media businesses can sign up to, making them promise to have clear, concise, and user friendly explanations into personal data use.

Facebook and Twitter have already edited their policies, but in future we could see those lengthy terms and conditions pages shortened down to manageable chunks that will enable you to actually read them and understand how your data is going to be used.