Unnerving film warns of privacy erosion -Terms and Conditions May Apply

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Anyone who uses Kindle, Facebook, Instagram and Smartphones can only do so by agreeing to the terms and conditions of use, and most of us click the “Agree” button when asked, without even reflecting on it.

The sobering and arresting 2013 documentary, Terms and Conditions May Apply will make many consider their actions more carefully.  Filled with interviews with analysts and activists, Terms and Conditions May Apply shows how the privacy of all of us has eroded, “a centimeter at a time” over the last two decades.

What began as a means of generating income for tech companies is shown to have evolved into an active collusion between these businesses and the government as now virtually all data about our lives – our photos, our banking history and our very words, are now monitored and collected.

The film shows an Irish lad imprisoned and interrogated for a frivolous remark he tweeted before boarding a plane to the United States.  It shows an ordinary guy in New York whose apartment was scoured by an NYPD SWAT team shortly after he posted dialogue from the film, “Fight Club” on his Facebook page.

No warrant was issued for the surveillance procedures that resulted in these incidents.

The film contains footage of government officials, Bush and Obama, among others, assuring the public that the surveillance procedures enacted after 911 are essential for the country’s security, while simultaneously assuring that they do not violate privacy – and then shows these statements to be false.  It points out that the National Security Agency (NSA) is “three times the size of the CIA.”  It sources the time that Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg called people who trusted their data with his social media site, “dumb fucks.”

In a moment of delicious sweetness, the filmmakers contrive to video record Zuckerburg against his will.  He asks them not to, and smiles with relief when he believes they stop.

After the screening of the film, Becky Straus, Legislature Director of the American Civil Liberty Union, will be on hand to discuss privacy issues in Oregon.

Straus is concerned with the way that “technology outpaces privacy laws,” and says that under current conditions, people experience “either the perception or the reality that they are always under the watchful eye of surveillance,” making them “more likely to adjust their behavior, perhaps chilling their exercise of the very freedoms that facilitate healthy and thriving democracy.”

Straus will update attendees on some of the ACLU’s work in the state and propose ways they can participate in efforts to protect privacy.

“It is a top priority of the ACLU to see that the government scales back its highly intrusive surveillance activities,” she says, “and that we see adequate protections for privacy rights in the private sector, as well.”

The film is tightly woven and lively, and, combined with the expertise of Straus, the evening promises to be a provocative one.

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