It’s time to get real with your EULAs

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Consumer trust is one of the most depleted resources that today’s companies have to draw from. While they may seem parenthetical to marketing campaigns and product packaging, readable end-user license agreements (EULAs) would be a significant step in restoring loyalty with your customer base.

Fine print has been a thing ever since they got the printing press to make mini letters. It’s consistently been associated with manipulation and pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. Why is it still considered normal for end-user license agreements (EULAs) to be unintelligible to anyone who’s not gone to law school?

The answer is: companies are currently able to get away with it. That may be changing soon, and enterprises can stand out from the crowd by getting ahead of the curve.

Digital privacy is a chief concern for Millennials and Gen Zs

To summarize the following for corporate leaders: Millennials and Gen Zs don’t trust you.

The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 analyzes responses from thousands of Millenials (born between 1983 and 1994) and Gen Zs (born between 1995 and 2002) in dozens of countries. This year’s report shows a continued decline in the trust shown towards business in general and specifically toward the technology they provide for customers:

· Only 14 percent of Millennials strongly agree that the benefits of technology outweigh the risks associated with sharing personal data

· 79 percent are concerned they’ll be victims of online fraud

· a quarter of Millennials have curtailed consumer relationships because of companies’ inability to protect data

These statistics warrant careful reflection on the part of those hoping to engage consumers age 36 and younger. Do your EULAs read like you’re trying to hide something from your customers? If so, you may be missing an opportunity to build trust.

EULAs and data privacy

As the statistics above suggest, consumers want to know what you’re doing with their information. These concerns are naturally more pronounced now that much of our lives are connected via the Internet of Things. Users click through “walls of text” as they set up their smart speakers, smart thermostats, and smartwatches, because what are they going to do about it if they disagree anyway? Return the product that’s now been installed in their car? Rip out the thermostat from their wall? Yet they have a nagging suspicion that those accessing their data may not have their best interests at heart.

EULAs would be an appropriate place to meaningfully notify users of the way the business plans to use their data. It’s all too convenient for companies to hide this information within long lists of ways the product should not be used (making nuclear weapons with iTunes, for example.)

User-friendly EULAs are good for business

Deloitte goes on to say, “Millennials and Gen Zs are conflicted about the role of technology, and they are looking to business to help them adjust to a new normal.” Divided attitudes toward EULAs is a perfect example. In typical Millennial character, while today’s consumers generally distrust corporations on principle, they do place implied trust when they scroll through an EULA without reading it and click, “I accept.” It’s widely understood that those things warrant a TLDR. (That’s “Too Long, Didn’t Read” for those not fluent in Millennial acronyms.)

What if you became one of the few companies who looks their customers in the eye when you tell them how their data is being used? What if your company went the extra mile to make your protective legal language intelligible to your readers? You would most likely win the loyalty of Millennials and Gen Zs who are looking for such companies.

Consumers need to know how to mitigate privacy risks

Having our private lives connected to the internet has its pros and cons. Consumers are becoming more aware of the dangers of connecting their lives via the IoT and the countless sites they rely on day to day. EULAs present companies an opportunity to educate the public on how to use their devices safely.

Companies would also be seen as a cut above if they explained the measures they’re taking to secure their customers’ data. Establishing quality security measures at the ground level slows down development and makes production more expensive, in general. But enterprises are being called upon to protect their consumers in these areas.

When legislation comes calling, will you be on your A-game?

Non-corporate America is starting to call for legislation to regulate the use of data. Business Law Today issued a call for laws protecting customers from profiling by geolocation data firms. They point out two main developments that need to be addressed by U.S. lawmakers:

(1) identified location data is regularly acquired and used by third parties with whom the individual has no direct relationship, and (2) de-identified or anonymized location data is regularly combined with identified personal data and used by third parties with whom the individual has no direct relationship to compile comprehensive profiles of the individual. These secondary-market practices are not currently addressed by U.S. law.

And Senator Ron Wyden has been working since November 2018 to pass the Consumer Data Protection Act, which would “set strong protections for Americans’ private information and to hold corporations — and CEOs — accountable for violating Americans’ privacy or lying to the government about privacy protections.”

It’s reasonable to assume that at some point in the fairly near future, more regulations will be required of companies in the area of digital privacy. This is good for consumers and likely costly for corporations, some of whom currently make a lot of money in the grey areas of data sharing.

Businesses would do well to prepare for this shift in consumer protections by assessing their business practices, including the way they communicate with their customers about these issues. Bring on the readable EULAs and earn your 20- and 30-something customers’ trust.

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