A couple of weeks ago, I was at a Web site registering and paying for a bit of shareware. At the bottom of the registration page was a box containing text: "From time to time we may pass your information on to other reputable companies whose products and services we believe may be of interest to you. If you do not wish to have your information used in this way, please tick this box."
The box had a black border, and there was empty space between the text and the border. I attempted to tick the box to "opt out" of any spam. Problem: nothing in that text box was clickable.
I presumed an error had been made. I was about to cancel the entire process, when something caught my eye. I adjusted the contrast on my screen, to reveal a subtle square of light blue against the lighter blue background outside the text box. When the contrast levels had been set to where I could read comfortably, this box was almost invisible.
Since it was the nearest box, I ticked it. Now I'm waiting to find out if that was the right thing to do, or if I will start to hear from companies that the developer of my shareware believes are as "reputable" as they claim. For all I know, there was another text box (in an even subtler shade of blue) to the right of the box I ticked, which read "click here to get ads for porno and stupid jokes poured into your inbox on the hour". I must have ticked a box that said just that at some point in my travels, but I don't know when.
The majority of sites I visit regularly require me to register in order to view some or all of their content. And no, I'm not talking about those kinds of sites. I'm talking about starwars.com, and nytimes.com, and various technology companies' Web sites.
None of these sites charge for content. They make revenue from banner advertising, and from selling the names, addresses and other personal details of their users.
Opting out means I'm getting their content and not allowing them to profit. So, just like a bricks-and-mortar store installing security tags and hidden cameras, Web sites install invisible tick boxes and convoluted grammar.
For example: "Tick this box if you do not wish to be included on a list of customers who are not interested in receiving promotional and special offers from us. This list will not be sold to other reputable companies whose products you may be interested in."
What would you do?
Matthew JC. Powell is always
interested in hearing from you.
Send porn and dumb jokes to firstname.lastname@example.org.