People unwittingly agree to give up a kidney for a free iPad

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

We all check out the terms and conditions before we agree to something, right?

The following video by YouTube prankster Jena Kingsley makes a serious point in a humorous fashion – proving how willingly people will agree to just about *anything* if it means they might get a free iPad.

Terms and Conditions Social Experiment / Prank

Internet companies take advantage of the knowledge that consumers don’t bother to read legalese to exploit your misplaced trust – perhaps installing unwanted toolbars onto your computer, snaffling up your data and spamming your address book, or popping up unwanted adverts.

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Yes, I know it’s a bore. But do try to be a little more cautious about what you agree to next time you sign up for a website, or install a piece of software.

With luck you won’t be unwittingly agreeing to give up one of your kidneys, but you might find that companies are using this as a legal loophole for them to perform some dirty tricks on your computer or with your personal data.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

6 comments on “People unwittingly agree to give up a kidney for a free iPad”

  1. coyote

    The sad reality is that people have gone so far as to do exactly this. There is the case in 2012 in China where a 17 year old boy went into renal failure because he so desperately wanted an iPad and iPhone. I remember reading about it at the time but:

    Note the following:

    'The 17-year-old boy, identified only by his surname Wang, was approached in an online chatroom and paid 22,000 yuan (£2,200) for his kidney to be used in an illegal transplant operation, the Xinhua News Agency said.

    The teen now suffers from renal deficiency and his health is deteriorating, according to prosecutors in Chenzhou city, Hunan province.'

    And to those who don't know, renal insufficiency = renal failure = kidney failure and it's a very bad, life changing thing.

  2. Simon

    I guess some can't see the forest from the trees.

    Here's a tip people: Your health is worth more than material goods.

  3. JungleMartin

    In all seriousness though, we need a much better solution to the way terms and conditions are presented and agreed to. The text next to the tickbox might say 'I agree to the term and conditions' or similar, but I would say the reality is that people are basically conditioned to 'tick the box if you want to continue', which the vast majority of the time people will do, otherwise they wouldn't have gone this far in the process in the first place. On the Internet particularly, we want and we are used to fast results. I'm convinced that the vast majority of people think that life is too short to spend valuable time reading all that waffle that they can't really understand anyway. And I fully expect there is no incentive or requirement for the people drawing up the 'waffle' to make it shorter or easier to understand. The more waffling and impenetrable it is, the more they can get people to unknowingly agree to because they won't read it.

    I think that organisations should be required (by legislation) to monitor the percentage of people that really READ the terms and conditions before agreeing to them. I think the results would speak for themselves! Organisations could then be required/encouraged to vastly improve the percentage of people that really read the terms.

    (Now, the 'ah but…') I don't have clever solution for how you get people to actually read the terms. Yes, some sites require us to click on them, or display them anyway, or even force us to scroll all the way to the bottom before the 'I agree' button becomes clickable. But that still doesn't mean that people have actually read them. I suppose those organisations could reasonably claim that they had done their best though, and that people had had every opportunity to read the terms.

    In the UK there is something called the Plain English Campaign. Something along those lines might help a lot, i.e. if websites were to vastly simply their terms and conditions and get them approved by the Plain English Campaign.

    1. coyote · in reply to JungleMartin

      Even worse is that when it is commercial what do you do? You agree to the terms or you don't use the product… too bad that you already bought it and opened it; we would have put all the terms and conditions on the box but then our company logo and product name (and praise it might be given) wouldn't fit. Actually, neither would our long legal rubbish fit by itself. That's the ultimate problem: you agree or you don't use so what can you do? It's especially worse if they feel they need the product (data recovery for example? Of course they should have backed up daily but that's another matter entirely).

      You say you don't have a solution in order to make them read it. There isn't a way (even when 'forced' to to through it you can just scroll or hit space/whatever brings you another page until you're at the bottom). The problem is that the terms and conditions are legally binding (maybe not technically – I'm not a lawyer and I wouldn't want to be one no matter what benefits it might give – but it is binding in some way) – and you can only use the product if you agree to them. In other words the model itself is the problem. That organisations abuse this is even worse (and yes they should be held accountable for it).

      I hear that Facebook is excellent at writing terms, conditions and policies – especially privacy policies. Maybe these corporations could learn from Facebook?

  4. spryte

    Last "Terms and Conditions" I tried to read was iTunes, about 3 or 4 years ago…

    I downloaded it, a 64 page pdf.

    All in Legaleze.

    If I break the terms, I suppose the apple Special Agents (aSAs) will come to relieve me of my Linux MacBook.

  5. JungleMartin

    I came across this interesting project/service.

    Terms of Service; Didn't Read

    '“Terms of Service; Didn't Read” (short: ToS;DR) is a young project started in June 2012 to help fix the “biggest lie on the web”: almost no one really reads the terms of service we agree to all the time.'

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