90% of people don’t read app terms and conditions, study reveals

British research also showed that it would take 17 hours to read the terms and conditions of the 13 most popular apps in the world; see more

did you know they would take 17 hours to read the terms and conditions of the most downloaded apps in the west? The information comes from a study conducted in November by a UK financial institution. Also according to the survey, the application with the most extensive terms and conditions is the Microsoft Teams – an app that became especially popular in 2020, due to the pandemic, and whose usage policy has more than 18 thousand words. Just to read the terms of the software, it would take a person 2 and a half hours.

In addition to addressing the extension of the terms of use of the most popular apps at the time, the survey also highlighted the growth of the market: in 2019, users of smartphones downloaded over 204 billion apps – 26 times the earth’s population – and spent over 93 billion pounds (somewhere around BRL 640 billion) doing this. In 2020, this number of downloads it grew 40%, in large part, it is believed, due to measures of social distancing.

Given this massive growth in usage and revenue, the institution reveals that it has decided to investigate the permissions applications require in their terms and conditions. The purpose of the survey was to point out the most harmful permissions for users. In the report that reveals the research findings, the institution also gave tips how to decide whether or not to grant a particular app access to our personal information.

Worldwide application revenue reached R$2.9 trillion in 2020, approximately US$581.9 billion. Over the next 3 years, that number is expected to jump to $935.2 billion, or R$4.7 trillion.

In addition to the above data, the British thinkmoney also found, from data from the European Commission, that 90% of Britons accept the terms and conditions of applications without reading them. In a similar survey, auditing firm Deloitte corroborated this data, finding that 91% of Americans also do not read privacy and usage policies. Among young Americans, the situation can be worse, as 97% of them do the same.

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In trying to answer why people act in such a way, the survey came to the expected conclusion that the terms and conditions are too long for anyone to read them. Furthermore, it took only a quick glance to notice that they are also complex – written in a technical, generic and ambiguous way, so that the user do not understand and not even interested in its content.

Below, check out how long, on average, it would take a person to read the terms and conditions of the 13 most downloaded apps in the UK – and which are also some of the most popular in Brazil. On the right, the total words that the terms and conditions of each app have:

Surprising, right? Well, more surprising than this is to note that, to read the terms and conditions of all the apps above, it would take a person 17 hours – the entire available period of their day, considering that someone will sleep for the remaining 7 hours. In all, the above privacy policies add up to 128,000 words, 30,000 more than the book The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien and three times more than an average book of literature in number of pages.

Considering that the average duration of a TikTok video is 15.6 seconds, you could see 370 of them on 1 hour and 33 minutes that you would spend to read the application policy. Another factor that caught the attention of researchers is that the second largest usage policy is a match and not from a social network: with 14,189 words, the game’s terms and conditions candy Crush are bigger than apps like Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. In the case of the latter, the terms are even longer than most TCCs for British students.

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‘We need access to your camera and microphone’

List of permissions requested by apps

By checking the content of the terms and conditions of the analyzed apps, thinkmoney also found that 92% of them they request access to the camera and the photos stored in the cell phone, as well as request access to the microphone. This in itself is not so alarming as most apps are social networks and therefore need access to these items to allow posts.

Even so, the study highlights the importance of knowing which permissions each application asks for on your cell phone, since, in older versions of iOS and Android, such access can be used maliciously. Until recently, the research report points out, apps that had access to the camera on iOS, for example, could take pictures without the user’s knowledge. Starting with iOS 13, released in 2019, this loophole has been closed – which also indicates the importance of keeping the smartphone OS up to date.

Still on the permissions, thinkmoney found that 62% of applications analyzed ask for access to the user’s location. Likewise, the report points out that, although this access is also necessary for the execution of various functionalities that interest the user, once an app is granted permission to access its location, the user allows the software to make a list of places where he’s been.

In the image below, check out the amount of permissions that every app studied by thinkmoney asks the user to:

In a way to raise awareness among British internet users, thinkmoney says that the most important thing is not to stop using these social networks just because of the permissions they request – or because of their intentionally confusing terms and conditions. For the company, the essential thing is that users know what you are accepting when registering for an app, as the impact of granting an app access to personal information is not always fully understood.

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In most cases, users have no idea how giving access to your contact list to an unknown app can put them at risk, even in the distant future. To avoid this type of ‘trap’, the company recommends that users, when faced with an app asking to access the camera or other information, reflect if that permission it really makes sense for their use of the app, as well as if it makes sense that the app is requesting such access.

Even if it is reasonable the Facebook request access to your camera, since there is a tool within the app to take and post photos, you it is not necessary accept this permission if you do not use this tool. The same tip is also useful for other apps and permissions: you only need to authorize an app to access your location if you’re going to use the functionality resulting from that access. allow the Instagram know where you are is only useful if you use location tags in your photos, for example.

Did you like the study and the tips raised by thinkmoney about the terms and conditions of the apps mentioned? If you are concerned about how your data is handled, you need to check our selection with 8 apps that will help you better control your privacy and security on networks.

With information from: PC Magazine, Statista, thinkmoney, Business Insider

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