Your friend just sold you for five dollars off cargo pants

1 May

Photo Credit: Rob Pongsajapan

On the way to work this morning,  I heard a radio story about Wrapp, a trojan horse app designed to harvest your personal information and sell it to…well, who knows.  Let’s assume anybody who will pay for it.

On the surface, app users will use Wrapp to gift their friends with some scant incentive, like a $5 gift card to a large retailer*.  Free!**  Fun!  Social gifting — it’s like Facebook for coupons!  It’s like reverse-Groupon, only generous!

From Wrapp’s 7,750-word terms of service:

[...] you expressly authorize Wrapp to receive certain of your information that is available on or through your Social Network account, including, without limitation, your profile information, friends or follower names, your photos, privacy settings [...]

Think about what you have made available “on or through” your Facebook account.  Will you sell me everything you’ve shared, and a list of your friends, and their demographics and what they’re into?  How much?  Also, think of the last time you intentionally entered into a contract where something could be taken from you “without limitation.”

Granted, you weren’t meant to see this verbiage.  It’s seven paragraphs deep in TOS that is intentionally too long to be read on a mobile device.  And nobody reads these things anyway***.

Essentially, Wrapp lets you sell access to who you are online.  And who your friends are.  Who’s buying?  Who knows.  Easy end-arounds like these defeats pretty much any online privacy protection yet devised.  Consumers can be incentivized to opt-in to programs that mine, track, and exploit.  The price tag:  a five-dollar coupon.

Closing with a quote from where we started:

In most of these transactions, the exchange is not a case where I literally offer you $2 for this specific type of data and I give you a very specific contract about how I’ll use the data.  It’s more like I offer you some free good, meanwhile, you as the consumer are not sure how this data will be used, and most importantly with what consequences.

*  who already are doing some kind of unbelievable stuff with behavioral marketing and consumer profiling

** as John Moe quotes:  “if you’re not paying anything, you’re not the customer, you’re the product”

*** apparently even their lawyer’s proofreader gave up after 900 words; “certain of your information” at the start of this quote is [SIC].  Omg loophole!  Phew, we’re all safe

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