In this era of digital peeping, it seems multinational corporations know more about us than our parents. For, frequent internet users, it's impossible to be online without signing away protections and privacy rights. We feel that the social network sites and search engines are free. No says, director Cullen Hoback's documentary "Terms and Conditions May Apply" (2013) and one thing gets clear: Digital Age contracts are anything but free for the netizens. It says all of us who has blindly clicked the "I Agree" button below an unreadable thick online user contract have surrendered once right for privacy. Your digital histories are used to target you with ads and sometimes reduce your credit limit.
Since the 9/11, American government was secretly collecting data and invading others' privacy in the name of national security. Red flags are raised by computer systems based upon a users search results. The docu clearly showcases that the red flags, don't always turn out to be the criminals they were predicted to be. A comedian vents his anger towards 'Apple Store' by quoting dialogues from "Fight Club" on Facebook. He is later visited by a SWAT team. An Irish student tweets a vow to "destroy America" (which means wild partying). He is seen as a potential terrorist and gets detained at an airport. A seventh grade student gets questioned by Secret Service, when he expressed concerns regarding Obama's safety after Osama's death (over Facebook).
Like the Phillip K. Dick short story, which was later adapted as "Minority Report", the FBI, CIA, and NSA are gathering and analyzing data that was volunteered by internet users to stop crimes. The documentary bears witness to some of the ridiculous preemptive arrests. British law enforcement used social media to hold a zombie wedding party. They detained them for 24 hours fearing that the royal wedding ceremony (in 2011) might be disrupted. The privacy invasion doesn't stop at making some ludicrous arrests. From the social network sites to pre-installed software on the Smartphone (which records every keystroke), the corporate aim is to create a profile each individuals: sometimes to attract consumers and at other times to deter whistle-blowers and identify dissenters. Dan Brown's "Digital Fortress" was just seen as a well-written fiction back when it was published. Now it's a reality. Google, AT&T and AOL are expanding their ability to monitor virtually all digital communication.
Director Hoback uses excerpts from movies such as "Harry Potter", "Lives of Others", "South Park" and "Minority Report" to highlight how tech companies are doing what they do. These sporadically employed clips drive home the ideas. He hits us with facts both seriously and comically. He does a Michael Moore-like confrontation with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and shows how these billionaire executives guard their own privacy. David Fincer's "Social Network" de-glamorized the Facebook CEO by depicting him as a backstabber. Here, Hoback follows Zuckerberg's activities to show his hypocrisy and double talk (although, I don't know why the documentary crew has this weird fixation over Zuckerberg).
"Anonymity isn't profitable" -- many interviewees insists on this point. At the same time, the documentary subtly (but sternly) points out that we are also responsible for the situation we find ourselves in. We are hungrily adapting to the digital culture and creating new identities by agreeing to opt-in that involves a certain measure of surrender. As the social studies professor in the docu, timely points out, "In most relationships in your life, it’s very good that the other person doesn’t know everything you’ve ever said or scribbled or thought."
"Terms and Conditions May Apply" will rile even the most passive viewer and will make us wonder, whether our right to digital privacy has been lost forever.
Terms and Conditions May Apply -- IMDb