On legal consent

Just a brief thought on an individual’s consent on various terms such as EULAs and TOSs.

It is conventionally assumed that an individual’s legal consent is sufficient to grant an institution, be it a private corporate or a governmental arm, full disclosure to and authority upon critical and sensitive information of the individual. The underlying premise behind this idea is that, perhaps, the institution which seeks to use this information provides the individual who supplies his or her information with every conceivable condition and possibilities pertinent to this transaction.

Yet, two problems continue to linger. One would be the information asymmetry between the institution and the individual, which resembles the classic principal-agent problem–in this case the institution which possesses much more professional information and resources than the individual deliberately withholds the client from knowing other (sometimes fraudulent) uses of this information which in the end benefit the institution. Another problem is, even if the institution or the information agent acts completely in good will, neither the agent nor the principal may lack capabilities to predict the repercussions from use of this information, including but not limited to, information leaks, emergent commercial exploitation, or the property of the information itself which may involve other individuals (such as genetic information, which would cover the entire biological family of the individual).

I don’t know who we can systematically handle these questions, rather than simply leaving the individuals with sole responsibilities to certain collateral damages.


About this entry