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Printing Out The Privacy Policies Of Facebook, Snap, And Others

Instagram’s is so long it drags on the floor.

There’s a reason no one reads terms of service agreements. They’re really long and filled with legalese that makes them nearly impossible to understand. If you tried to read all the privacy policies you come across, it’d take you about 76 full working days per year. A new installation by the designer Dima Yarovinsky visualizes just how lengthy the terms of service for tech platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook really are–by printing them out.

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Dima Yarovinsky [Photo: Dima Yarovinsky]
For Aalto University’s conference Visualizing Knowledge, Yarovinsky printed out the lengthy legal documents for seven tech companies and simply hung them on the wall of a gallery in order of length. The scrolls are all in standard legal print and typeface, and some are so long they drag onto the floor. For instance, it would take 86 minutes to read the 17,161 words in Instagram’s policy. It’s one thing to know these documents are long–but it’s an entirely different story when you see them printed out in front of you in tiny font.

“My main goal was to emphasize how small [and] helpless . . . we are against these giant corporates,” Yarovinsky tells Co.Design in an email. “Ticking the box, ‘I have read and agree to the Terms,’ is the biggest lie on the web today.”

This won’t necessarily be the case for long in some parts of the world. Because of a new piece of data privacy regulation in Europe called GDPR, tech companies are hastily revising their terms of service and updating their privacy policies to meet the law’s new standards (you may have noticed many companies emailing you about it). One requirement is that users actually understand what companies are doing with their data–which means these ridiculously lengthy legal documents could soon be a thing of the past. But for now, those of us in the U.S. are stuck with them.

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and sign up for her newsletter here: https://tinyletter.com/schwabability

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