Niharika (@Lawbertarian) tweeted: "This ❤️ A lawyer rewrote Instagram's terms of use 'in plain English' so kids would know their privacy rights"

A lawyer rewrote Instagram’s terms of use ‘in plain English’ so kids would know their privacy rights

“‘Terms and conditions’ is one of the first things you agree to when you come upon a site,” Jenny Afia, a privacy lawyer and partner at Schillings law firm in London, told The Washington Post. “But of course no one reads them. I mean, most adults don’t read them.”

Afia was a member of a “Growing Up Digital” task force group convened by the Children’s Commissioner for England to study Internet use among teens and the concerns children might face as they grow up in the digital age.


One reason for this became apparent when the task force asked a group of teenagers to read and interpret Instagram’s terms and conditions. Many of them balked at the exercise: Instagram’s terms of use in total run at least seven printed pages, with more than 5,000 words, mostly written in legalese.


Other complex paragraphs were similarly condensed to sentences that were easier to digest:

  • “Don’t bully anyone or post anything horrible about people.”
  • “Officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world. Other people might pay us to use them and we will not pay you for that.”
  • “Although you are responsible for the information you put on Instagram, we may keep, use and share your personal information with companies connected with Instagram. This information includes your name, email address, school, where you live, pictures, phone number, your likes and dislikes, where you go, who your friends are, how often you use Instagram, and any other personal information we find such as your birthday or who you are chatting with, including in private messages (DMs).”

Keep reading at Washington Post (32 more paragraphs) | Desktop version

On the other hand, too much plain speaking could also be bad for a client, it appears:

At least one teenager quoted in the report said he would take privacy matters into his own hands, however, after going through the exercise. “I’m deleting Instagram,” 13-year-old Alex said, “because it’s weird.”

Click to show 5 comments
at your own risk
By reading the comments you agree that they are the (often anonymous) personal views and opinions of readers, which may be biased and unreliable, and for which Legally India therefore has no liability. If you believe a comment is inappropriate, please click 'Report to LI' below the comment and we will review it as soon as practicable.
refresh Filter out low-rated comments. Show all comments. Sort chronologically
Like +0 Object -0 Anon1234 11 Jan 17, 10:25
How is this a case for or against legalese? Just put up a catchy title that's completely unrelated to the content eh? Absolutely ridiculous.
Reply Report to LI
Like +0 Object -0 kianganz 11 Jan 17, 10:57
I think the full article makes both points:

For: “The situation is serious,” Afia said in the report. “Young people are unwittingly giving away personal information, with no real understanding of who is holding that information, where they are holding it and what they are going to do with it.”

Against (the interests of the client): At least one teenager quoted in the report said he would take privacy matters into his own hands, however, after going through the exercise. “I’m deleting Instagram,” 13-year-old Alex said, “because it’s weird.”

In other words, oftentimes T&Cs are probably intentionally obtuse to mask companies' vague privacy policies. So, should a lawyer representing a client in the best way possible defend consumer rights or help a client fudge the truth a bit?
Reply Report to LI
Like +0 Object -0 Anon1234 11 Jan 17, 12:33
Your quotes from the article that are'against' seem to be saying the same thing as the 'for'. Your interpretation of it is stating the obvious, except that the most obvious 'against' would be the need for precision, which in my mind is the only real 'against'. Fudging the truth and making things incomprehensible is quite an indefensible 'against' wouldn't you say?
Reply Report to LI
Like +0 Object -0 kianganz 11 Jan 17, 12:47
I see your point, am updating the article to make the intention clearer. Also good point re precision, though I'm sure it's possible to draft in plain comprehensible English that kids could understand, yet still be precise. In fact, in the UK, if I remember my ancient legal training correctly, EU regulations mandate (or recommend?) using plain English in consumer contracts, though I don't think that's not consistently followed.

I agree with you that fudging the truth is morally rather indefensible, though everyday pragmatism and legal ethics put this in a grey area.

If the client's business need is, for instance: we need to screw people's privacy (or right X, such as warranties) as far as is possible within the law, but we don't want them to know outright, that's a perfectly legal instruction, is it not? Professional ethics would require that the lawyer follow the client's instruction and hide more nefarious (but legal) parts of the contract in the small print?

To some extent, all lawyers do that by pushing favourable clauses for their clients (while the opposing side resists). But when a consumer is involved, who has no bargaining power or legal advice usually, it can end up being unfair (to the consumer, though not necessarily for the company).
Reply Report to LI
Like +0 Object -0 Anon1234 12 Jan 17, 12:36
I'd imagine that in relation to a privacy policy at least most things may just be stated as a list ("personal info", "browsing history" etc.) along with who its being shared with. Can append details of sharing but the gist of it should be able to be condensed into some sort of checklist. Hopefully some litigation abroad leads to some such development so that we may follow suit.
Reply Report to LI

refreshSort chronologically Filter out low-rated comments. Show all comments.