What have you agreed to?

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Whilst reading Animal Farm in school, my English teacher at the time had a reasonably poor memory, and as a result we would reread chapters several times, and we never actually finished the book. I did however get to see a (very impressive one-man) theatre production of the book, and I have seen the 1999 film – who’s idea was it to have a happy ending!

Anyway… today, in a BBC article it is reported that according to Fairer Finance, many car insurance policy documents are longer than George Orwell’s Animal Farm. One of the longest of the documents they found was Danske Bank’s terms and conditions which  contained almost 70,000 words – that’s more words than Animal Farm put together with Of Mice and Men – which was incidentally another book I read at school.

Of UK financial services companies, HSBC came in top with 34,162 words, whilst LV was the lowest with 6,901 – 27,261 fewer words.

Why?

For financial institutions legal jargon is important. Terms and conditions provide organisations with legal protection and are in some ways a measure of credibility and assurance – would you place trust in a bank which didn’t have any terms and conditions? I understand that they are important, but why do they need to be so long and full of technical jargon?

Do you think companies are aiming to dissuade people from reading their terms by making them so long-winded? If so, what could a business put in its terms? Could a social media site claim ownership of your face? Don’t be silly.

Do long, wordy terms of service not discriminate against slower readers, and people who have a life? Sometimes I struggle to keep up with my university reading, so how/why on earth am I expected to read a novel length script of jargon each time I open a current account?

Help is out there!

Facebook, Google and Twitter are no angels either, many websites also have ridiculously long terms of service. There is however consumer help for judging these sites, thanks to Terms of Service Didn’t Read. I use their browser extension for Firefox, and it is helpful.

YouTube tosdr

YouTube is rated D by Terms of Service; Didn’t Read

Fairer Finance have started a petition to try and bring down the small print and force organisations to be more concise and consumer friendly. Visit the campaign page and you can also send them any examples you have of annoyingly pointless small print.

JibJab’s 2013 year review

You thought I had forgotten this didn’t you. Each year I post JibJab’s review of the year, so here is 2013’s.

This year JibJab have called their video 2013 What A Year! last years was 2012 The End is Here! and the year before was 2011 Buh-Bye!

Take a look…

JibJab's LogoJibJab always cram so much into their year reviews. Here are some of the things I picked out… there was the Egyptian uprising, the US shut-down, government spying (on the public and other governments/countries), YouTube’s most watched video What Does the Fox Say? Toronto’s ‘unconventional’ mayor, the ISS got damaged (or maybe it was a reference to the film Gravity), there was a change of pope, the Philippines typhoon, gay marriage became accepted, there was a royal baby, Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, the release of the iPhone 5S, 5C and iOS 7, Miley Cyrus wrecking ball, Jeff Bezos buys the Washington Post, famous deaths including Thatcher and Mandela, Blockbuster’s final shut down and the Harlem Shake craze.

I know I missed a few and there were some things the video didn’t feature, but I think it was a pretty good summary of 2013.

YouTube’s most watched UK videos of 2013

It’s that time of year again when our content starts to become more fun. To continue the tradition of the last two years, I am going to take a look at which videos attracted the most attention on YouTube over the last year in the UK. Scroll to the end for the global list.

Sneaking in at number 10 this year is Learn the Alphabet with Peppa Pig! a video which teaches the alphabet the help of a family of pigs. Interestingly the video has a very high percentage of dislikes – around 10,500 likes to 9,000 dislikes. If you have forgotten the alphabet and want a quick refresher, I recommend you check out the UK’s 10th most visited video of 2013.

In at number 9 is a music video by the band Hadouken! The song is accompanied by a video of people doing all sorts of amazing, thrilling stunts and is well worth a watch. It proves to you what us humans are capable of.

The eighth most watched video on YouTube for the UK this year is Francine Lewis’ Britian’s Got Talent Interview. Francine is an impressionist who shocked and humoured the audience, naturally getting 4 yeses from the judges. If you want to follow her story (and have a laugh) check out the video, Francine Lewis with her many impressions.

Having been watched over 10 million times across the world Tom Daley: Something I want to say… comes in at number 7 on this years list. The Olympic athlete announced he was in a relationship with another guy via his YouTube channel and the video instantly went viral. The media as a whole were very respectful of Tom’s bravery and many congratulated him on helping to break down still prevalent social boundaries. With a 20:1 like to dislike ratio, I think it is fair to say the public is behind Tom and value his openness.

Remember that video by the Norwegian army that made Internet history earlier this year? No. How about if I say the words Colo Terorita… ringing any bells? Watch this then.


That’s right, a Harlem Shake parody comes in at number 6.

Has there been a year when Tom Ska hadn’t had a video in the UK’s top 10? Probably not for a while. Okay so in at number 5 is asdfmovie6, a continuation of the asdf sketch comedy series. asdf7 is now also out, but since it was only released in October, it hasn’t made the top 10 for this year. For a little more comedy, check out asdf6 below. 🙂

Number 4 this year a BBC video from the Graham Norton Show where Graham is surprised by Will & Jaden Smith. The video has been viewed nearly 20 million times, and sees Alfonso, Will and Jaden and DJ Jazzy Jeff do the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air rap.

So, to the top three!

This year Britain’s Got Talent has two videos in the top 10, stealing slot number three on the list too with Attraction’s audition video. Attraction are amazing, they stunned and moved the nation with their fantastic shadow performance. Check it out.

In at number 2 this year with over 200 thousand likes to less than 2,500 dislikes is the 15 minute long My Wedding Speech by Mcfly drummer Tom Fletcher. The video is a brilliant song thanking all those involved in making Tom’s wedding. The song is a very entertaining tribute and is worth 15 minutes of watching, do take a look.

So now to number 1. Comedy seems to have been a common theme over the last three years, so it is fitting that this years winner is a comedy video. Ever wondered how animals eat their food? Well you wouldn’t be alone, it appears over 90 million other people have too. Take a look.

The Global Most Watched

Here is a list of the global top 10 most watched videos on YouTube.YouTube logo

  1. Ylvis – The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)
  2. Harlem Shake (original army edition)
  3. How Animals Eat Their Food
  4. Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball (Chatroulette Version)
  5. baby&me / the new evian film
  6. Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split feat. Van Damme
  7. YOLO (feat. Adam Levine & Kendrick Lamar)
  8. Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise
  9. THE NFL : A Bad Lip Reading
  10. Mozart vs Skrillex. Epic Rap Battles of History Season 2

That’s it for another year, but do be sure to stay tuned for next years YouTube top 10! 🙂

How Much Freedom Does the Internet Bring You?

On the surface Internet living seems to bring a great deal of freedom to many different parties. Last month for example I posted from the USA, Italy and the UK, we can work from home, buy direct and have access to all kinds of information.

This might make us feel that the web itself creates freedom, or that it is free to operate as we wish. I am not so sure that this is the whole story however, and others agree.

How much freedom of speech really exists?

How much freedom of speech really exists?

Last week Security technologist Bruce Schneier gave a talk as part of the TEDx Cambridge series. Schneider is very interested in security and perceptions of security as this previous TED video shows, but last week’s talk was different.

He took the problem of Internet freedom as his topic, and raised some very interesting arguments. The following quotes are taken from his speech as reported on our local Boston.com website:

“Which type of power dominates the coming decades? Right now it looks like traditional power. It’s much easier for the NSA to spy on everyone than it is for anyone to maintain privacy. China has an easier time blocking content than its citizens have getting around those blocks.”

We can see that there is some evidence to support this case, if we look at this article that appeared in the Huffington Post a couple of years ago. It recounts the tale of Google pulling out of China because they no longer wanted to censor their searches. Google chose to redirect users to their non censored search engine based in Hong Kong. The Chinese government managed to block the results anyway, so users were left in the same position as before, no access to the information.

If we take a broader look though we find that it is not just China but other countries that are making repeated requests for Google to censor their content. CNN report the revelations of the recent Google Transparency report, where Canada, France, the UK and the USA feature strongly in the league of requested censorship. The report is here, easy to follow and a 5 minute thumb through might change your ideas regarding freedom and regulation on the web.

Just yesterday Linkedin announced that they challenging the US government over data requests. US organizations are allowed to publish the total number of data requests, but cannot break the figure down to reveal the number made by security services. Linkedin say this legal situation makes no sense, and many other companies agree. Read about it here.

“Cyber criminals can rob more people more quickly than real-world criminals, digital pirates can make more copies of more movies more quickly than their analog ancestors. And we’ll see it in the future. 3D printers mean control debates are soon going to involve guns and not movies.”

Just this week The Independent ran a story about Europe’s criminal intelligence agency that is fighting unprecedented levels of crime across several fronts as gangs capitalise on new technology. We are not talking about a few individuals hacking into the odd bank account here and there, we are looking at the new form of organized crime. A multi billion dollar industry in Europe alone.

The gun reference is of course to the distribution of plans for a 3D printer manufactured gun. Read about it here.

Caution in cases of political dissent

Caution in cases of political dissent

Much has been written about how Facebook and other interfaces have the power to democratize society, and their potential to promote revolution. The so-called Arab Spring is often given as an example, but as well as dissidents using Facebook to organize protests, the Syrian and other governments also used Facebook to identify and arrest dissidents.

There are plenty of examples. Here is an article about 3 Moroccan activists who were arrested for their comments criticizing governments at that time. One used a Wikileaks type platform, another Facebook and the third Youtube. They were all arrested and charged with various and sometimes unrelated crimes.

I wonder where they are now?