22,000 People Agree To Clean Toilets For WiFi Because They Didn't Read The Terms

GIF: Gizmodo

Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, listed his top worries for the future of his creation earlier this year. One of his biggest concerns is the increasingly dense terms of service agreements that companies ask users to sign. Now, a public WiFi company has demonstrated just how dangerous those complicated agreements can be by inserting absurd conditions that thousands of people unwittingly agreed to.

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Purple is a Manchester-based company that specialises in running WiFi hotspots for brands like Legoland, Outback Steakhouse and Pizza Express. This week, the company came clean about its two-week experiment in which it inserted a "Community Service Clause" into its terms of service agreement. More than 22,000 people signed up to perform 1,000 hours of menial labour for the chance to check in on their Facebook and maybe look up some directions.

In a blog post on its site, a Purple spokesperson explains that the agreement requires users to do any of the following, at Purple's discretion:

  • Cleansing local parks of animal waste
  • Providing hugs to stray cats and dogs
  • Manually relieving sewer blockages
  • Cleaning portable lavatories at local festivals and events
  • Painting snail shells to brighten up their existence
  • Scraping chewing gum off the streets

There was also a prize offer for anyone who contacted the company and pointed out the clause. Only one person received a prize.

It's unclear if Purple would even be legally allowed to enforce the clause, but it says it won't even try. This was simultaneously a campaign to raise awareness about the necessity of reading the terms of service, and a marketing stunt to announce that Purple is the first WiFi provider to be compliant under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The GDPR guidelines will become enforceable on May 25, 2018, for countries that are part of the European Union. The new regulations are intended to simplify terms and conditions as well as provide more transparency for consumers to understand how their personal data will be used.

[Purple via Geeks are Sexy]

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Comments

    If you took the time and read all the Terms of Services you agreed or have been "updated" in a year... it would take 2 months of your life (per year)

      They really need a TLDR version of their contracts. Maybe they could manage it somewhat like this, there is a single generic contract created that covers a wide range of products/services. Then each company can create a small prefix to it that covers notable changes to the contract. So effectively you might have a 50 page document you read once and then a bunch of little one paragraph - one page type documents that cover exceptions.

    Gamestation did this in 2010 with the 'immortal soul clause' as both an April Fool's joke and a message about reading the ToS.

    "By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from gamesation.co.uk or one of its duly authorised minions."

      I remember that, the best bit was something along the lines of them enacting the clause through 6ft burning letters...ah, here...
      "we reserve the right to serve such notice in 6 (six) foot high letters of fire, however we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe you have an immortal soul, b) have already given it to another party, or c) do not wish to grant Us such a license, please click the link below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your transaction."
      Great stuff:)

    I'd go so far as to say that most of the clauses are not enforceable as they often contradict other local bi-laws or nation or state laws that override the conditions you agree to.

    Plus you are not actually signing anything, a click of a button can't be proved to be anyone in particular so its all a bit of a "keep the honest people honest" exercise.

      The clauses aren't enforceable, the are absurd, and would be knocked down under Australian corporations law as unconscionable.

      But don't think you are not entering into an enforceable contract. Your device is identified on the wifi network by details such as a MAC address, which is certainly traceable. Difficulty in enforcing a contract does not equal no contract.

        A contract requires three things; offer, acceptance and consideration. Consideration means money (or something of worth in exchange for product or services performed). If all you do is click a button and not pay anything, there is no contract.

          Arguably the 'consideration' is your data - which they use for the purposes of advertising and statistical analysis. The data Facebook gets is extremely valuable (hence why they're still in business). So it's probably a contract with enforceable terms.

          Doesn't mean ridiculous terms can be enforced though.

            Yeah, data is absolutely the consideration. You are receiving a service, which is definitely consideration.

    what is really required is new legislation that makes companies highlight anything that might be deemed as unethical, controversial etc.
    Or we could just bring back the death penalty.

    Oh, look this is just gold...just goes to show that people will do or sign anything to get online...!!

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