Documentary decodes the digital-age soul contract that is ‘Terms and Conditions’


With a title like “Terms and Conditions May Apply,” it may be tempting to click “next” on this documentary when it pops up under Netflix’s new releases category – just like the majority of us do when its namesake pops up when registering for another Internet account.

However, everyone needs to watch this documentary. Director Cullen Hoback shatters the illusion of digital-age privacy via nonpartisan interviews and research that left me seriously contemplating living a life off the electronic grid.

One of the documentary’s 30-plus interviews points out that “anonymity isn’t profitable” for companies like Facebook and Google, which is why they shouldn’t be treated as benign public utilities. Sponsorships with surveillance programs and legal rulings on data-collection programs remain shrouded in secrecy and continue to operate like an eye in the sky.

This is why students especially should take a break from their “Orange is the New Black” binges to watch this. An interview with a police-drama TV writer demonstrates how harmless research, when taken out of context, could send a SWAT team banging down your door.

Terrifying reality checks aside, “Terms and Conditions May Apply” is an engaging and unsettling summary of the many ways corporations, law enforcement and government agencies gather, share and use our information. Though Hoback lightens the film’s tone with clips from shows like “Parks and Rec” and “South Park,” he rips the argument of “I don’t care because I don’t do anything worth watching” to shreds. As the film points out, you never have anything to hide until you do – and then what will you do?

This 79-minute documentary shows the real-life implications of living in a world without privacy, and how apathetically accepting the terms and conditions with a “means to an end” justification is the core of our problem. It reminds the viewer that without privacy, we are never really free.