Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013)

Director Cullen Hoback’s “Terms and Conditions May Apply” is one of the most important films made in years. It is also the most important film made this year. In an age where everyone and their grandparents are connected to some form of personal computers and are freely relinquishing personal information for the sake of using some novelty program, director Cullen Hoback explores in his film how the click of one button will destroy not just your freedom, but the entire world’s freedom.

We’re currently living in a police state where the president has openly admitted to keeping a record on the American public offering no apologies. Director Hoback explores how the American government, and many other governments have been able to streamline their research on us and document our every moves by the mere action of clicking “I agree” on Privacy Notices and Terms of Use. No one ever reads Terms of Use agreements, and those who argue they do are lying. Terms of Use agreements are at least thirty pages in length and written in very small text. No one is willing to spare two hours reading a legal document just to allow them to post a picture of their graduation. And that’s what online companies and the government have banked on.

With the click of one button and the effort to save time, civilization has forfeited their privacy and their luxuries of anonymity, and discretion. And while it is in some form the fault of the public for willing to allow the destruction of their privacy, director Cullen Hoback delves deep in to the privacy policies, their inherent deceptive practices, and how companies work around their own contracts allowing them carte blanche. Thus our entire lives can be traded, sold, and handed to the government. And we have no ability to protest. Director Hoback never relies on tricky editing or shock tactics to compel the viewers, but instead explores cold hard facts about the guidelines behind terms of agreements for sites like Google and Facebook and investigate how they’ve re-written their own history.

As well, they’ve also worked behind the scenes in helping the government to monitor our every move and create profiles on us, as CEO’s and folks like Zuckerberg find ways to rationalize invading our privacy. There are many startling anecdotes and facts about the world around us and how we’re not only being watched but can at any time disappear. The mishandling of our information has also become one of the major thorns in the sides of citizens around the wolrd, as Hoback talks incidences including that of a crime show writer arrested for looking up terms about murder on Google, as well as a rights group arrested during a wedding for discussing on their phones about potentially staging a protest. “Terms and Conditions May Apply” isn’t a documentary about how we’re losing our privacy, but about how we’re becoming instrumental in destroying privacy. We’re woefully uninformed, and even worse, we’re complacent.

And in willing to comply with big brother in order to keep our luxuries, technology has now become a giant eye to watch our every move, no matter what we do. The most brilliant moment in “Terms and Conditions May Apply” is the search for Mark Zuckerberg and how shockingly easy it is for our filmmakers to find him with a few online apps. It’s a moment that has to be seen to be believed, and sums up how much society must heed the warnings, and begin fighting for its privacy back before we’ve all become nothing but codes easily wiped off a board by big brother.


In Limited Theatrical Release July 12th.