As we ease ourselves into 2017, I thought I'd start with a short piece, containing a suggested simple solution to a complex and seemingly intractable problem.
We all do it, the legal community included. We want to grab that app, buy that product or service online, download an update, get IT support to gain remote access to our screen etc. Then, up pops that box telling us that before we can get it, we must tick "I accept" with that helpful link to the 30 pages + of terms and conditions to read through before going any further. Need I write more?
So here's the answer - replace pages of legal text with emoticons and/or emojis - 'legalicons'.
Or, perhaps more realistically, supplement the pages and pages of unread detailed terms and conditions and policies with an internationally understood visual vocabulary to convey key provisions e.g. that the site cannot share your data with third parties.
This will need an internationally supported code of practice to develop and get adopted. It would include a requirement for sites which sign up to include in their T&C"s that if there is any conflict or inconsistency between the legal written text and the legalicons they adopt, the latter prevail.
But what difference would rolling out legalicons make? Is it a solution to a problem no-one cares about? I would like to suggest two reasons why it would make a difference. First, particularly in the case of consumer sites, there are questions about the legal enforceability of complex and legal terms and conditions and policies. Second, unread terms and conditions devalue consent and undermine trust in the online world. In the long run, that's bad for consumers, service providers and everyone else.
Anyway, just an idea for the New Year.
On which note, let me wish all my readers a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!