Visualising Terms and Conditions

Dima Yarovinsky is a UX/UI designer who works at ZenCity and who is a student of visual communication at Betzalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem.

Dima Yarovinsky

His project I Agree will be showcased in the US at the Visualizing Knowledge exhibition, an event which showcases new talents from the field of Information Design. Following an open call that yielded high quality entries from all over the world, 13 works were selected in regard to understandability, societal impact, aesthetic qualities and visual innovation.

Credit: Dima Yarovinsky

Dima introduces his project at the event in the following way:

“I took the content of the “terms of service” of the leading online services that we use on a daily basis (including Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Tinder etc.). I’ve printed them on a standard A4 wide scroll with a standard legal contract font size and type. After printing this so-called terms, I hanged the scrolls in the gallery at the academy, added the number of words and the time it takes to read each scroll on the floor. My main goal was to emphasize how small, helpless and harmful are we against this giant corporates.”

Credit: Dima Yarovinsky
Credit: Dima Yarovinsky

Dima’s work was also exhibited at the Visualizing Knowledge showcase in Finland. In the picture below you can see the terms and conditions for WhatsApp, Google, Tinder, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

Photo credit: Mika Aldaba (@hailmika, Twitter)

For what is strong about this particular visualisation project is the way in which the length of terms and conditions are a physical representation of the true attitudes of the companies towards their customers.

The recent scandal relating to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica has really highlighted to people just how much information these companies know about us and how this information is actually used.

On May 25 however a General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR law that restricts how personal data is collected and handled will come into effect in Europe. This law was designed to help people know, understand, and consent to the data collected about them.

Unlike the incredibly dense and complex terms and conditions in these photographs above, companies now have to be clear and concise about what data they are collecting and how they are using it, for example full name, home address, location data, IP address, or the identifier that tracks web and app use on smartphones.

The law is already having an impact on companies’ activities. As Wired reported last month:

“In June, Google announced that it would stop mining emails in Gmail to personalize ads. (The company says that was unrelated to GDPR and done in order to harmonize the consumer and business versions of Gmail.) In September, Google revamped its privacy dashboard, first launched in 2009, to be more user-friendly. In January, Facebook announced its own privacy dashboard, which has yet to launch. Though the law applies only in Europe, the companies are making changes globally, because it’s simpler than creating different systems.”

Source

There is still a long way to go before full trust is restored in Facebook, and many people are now deciding to either leave, or heavily restrict their use. It will be interesting to see the long term impact of the new European privacy law, but for now it is clear that companies will no longer be able to treat their users as being naive and having no idea about their true business models, as opposed to their stated purposes such as “connecting people” and such like.

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