By N.S. Palmer, Ph.D.
The online social networking site Facebook recently changed its terms of service to give it more control over users’ personal information. After a widespread uproar on the Internet and in traditional news media, Facebook rescinded its policy change and returned to its old policy.
Facebook’s terms of service are an instance of a more general problem that consumers face in dealing with giant corporations. Who has enough time to read every 25-page legal document in fine print and impenetrable jargon from the credit card company, the insurance company, the cable company, the bank, and the countless other corporations that dominate our lives?
When a corporation buries abusive clauses at the bottom of page 17 and puts them in deliberately obscure language, how are consumers supposed to cope with that?
When corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars studying language and psychology to find better ways of manipulating and deceiving their customers, how are consumers supposed to cope with that?
They can’t. Corporations count on it. The practice even has a name: it’s called “gotcha capitalism.”
Only strong regulation, carefully and thoroughly enforced, can level the playing field between consumers, workers, and corporations.
Copyright 2009 by N.S. Palmer. May be reproduced as long as copyright notice and URL (http://www.ashesblog.com) are included.