These App Terms and Conditions Are Longer Than Novels, Reports Reveal

If you don't like reading terms and conditions agreements, you're not alone. A recent report from the BBC and ThinkMoney showcase that some of the popular apps' T&Cs are longer than any of the first three Harry Potter books: Philosopher's StoneChamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban.

The T&C of 13 popular apps, including Zoom, TikTok, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, and even Candy Crush, amass a total of 128,415 words. If an average English-speaking person reads up to 125 words in one minute, 17 hours and 5 minutes is the estimated time to read all of these novel-length T&Cs.

To put things into perspective, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone's word count is 76,944. Chamber of Secrets has 85,141 words, and Prisoner of Azkaban has over 107,253 words.

Read the full report here

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What are these apps?

Microsoft Teams made the first on the list with 18,282 words, followed by Candy Crush's 14,189 words and TikTok's 11,698 words. Google Meet has the shortest T&C with 128,415 words. 

Ironically, most of these apps target teens to adult teen users, and 92% require microphone and camera permission. If an average TikTok video is 15.6 seconds in length, you will need to watch at least 370 videos to have the same estimated time as it is to read its T&C. 

Messenger and Facebook require the most permissions, including precise location, contacts, phone, microphone, and camera. WhatsApp follows the list with 42 permissions and Gmail with 41 permissions. 

Also, nearly most of these apps may build up a list of places you have visited, and that's something to worry about. 

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Do people really read lengthy agreements?

The short answer is no, or at least 98% of American people, as a study reveals. This could create a massive loophole, especially with the microphone and camera permission. 

In 2017, as the Guardian reported, two communications professors, Jonathan Obar of York University in Toronto and Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch of the University of Connecticut, experimented. 

Roughly 543 students were invited to join NameDrop, a new social network. One of the T&Cs requires them to name their future children with 'NameDrop.' Only a quarter of the students looked at the agreements, and they did not even thoroughly read them. 

"There's a real concern that consumer protection law is basically being swallowed by click-by-agree clauses," David Hoffman told the Guardian. Hoffman is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. 

That said, it's up to us to be careful about what we click. Sure, reading a lengthy T&C which requires a university-level reading skill is tough. Still, as users, we can always revoke this access. 

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