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Our relationship with technology involves legal agreements that we either review or enter into when using a technology, namely privacy policies and terms of service or terms of use (“TOS/TOU”). We initiated this research to understand if providing a formal rating of the legal policies (privacy policies and TOS/TOUs) would be valuable to consumers (or Me-s). From our early qualitative discussions, we noticed that people were unclear on whether these policies were legally binding contracts or not. Thus, a secondary objective emerged to quantitatively explore whether people knew who these policies protected (if anyone), and if the policies were perceived to be contracts with the provider of the digital technology (or “B”). The purpose of a privacy policy is notification and disclosure, not protection. Privacy policies are not designed to protect anyone, they’re designed to inform. The TOS/TOU, on the other hand, is an agreement relating to the use of the technology or service and is typically designed to protect the business. Do Me-s understand this? We conducted ethnographic interviews with six participants living in the United States, during a two-week period from February to March 2021. We followed these interviews with a focus group session of five participants in July 2021 and an online survey of 566 individuals in August 2021. In these studies, we asked participants and survey respondents who they think the privacy policy and TOS/TOU protect and whether they perceived these policies to be enforceable contracts.

We hope that the findings in this research can help illuminate and eventually eliminate the pervasive asymmetry in Me2B relationships and be a concrete resource to lawyers supporting Me-s in legal cases relating to digital agreements.



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