Thousands of People Ignore Small Print, Agree To Clean Sewage

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A WiFi company in the United Kingdom just tricked 22,000 people who didn't read the terms and conditions, and now agreed to clean toilets and sewage blockages.

Have you ever been so desperate to hop on WiFi that you just click "I accept" to any pop-up window? We've all been there.

Well, one company just reminded us to pay better attention to those tiny printed words.

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For two weeks, Purple, a United Kingdom-based WiFi company that creates hotspots in various establishments, put a clause in its terms and conditions that ended up legally binding 22,000 people to 1,000 hours of undesirable community service, The Guardian reported. By undesirable, we mean cleaning animal waste in local parks and painting snail shells, according to its press release.

The clause was put there to show the "lack of consumer awareness" people have when signing up for free WiFi, its press release said. 

"WiFi users need to read terms when they sign up to access a network," Purple CEO Gavin Wheeldon said in the press release. "What are they agreeing to, how much data are they sharing, and what license are they giving to providers? Our experiment shows it's all too easy to tick a box and consent to something unfair."

In May 2018, a new data privacy regulation will take place in Europe. Called the General Data Protection Regulation, it will help protect users by letting them control how their data is used.

Purple's experiment wasn't all evil trickery. There was also a prize for anyone who actually read the terms and conditions and flagged the community service clause. 

Only one person did this.

However, Purple did acknowledge how "unlikely" it is to make the other thousands now clean the bathrooms at a music festival (which we all know are not pretty), scrape the gum off of streets, and relieve sewer blockages.

According to cybersecurity firm F-secure, terms and conditions are legally binding but don't really hold up well in court because they potentially violate "common law principles of fairness," The Guardian reported.

Let the possibility of cleaning toilets serve as a stark reminder to always read the terms and conditions. 

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Thumbnail Credit: REUTERS, Valentyn Ogirenko

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