There are so many cases where we see customers having trouble with befuddling and legalistic user agreements that get them into trouble. Perhaps a customer reveals more personal information than she realized to an advertising aggregator. Perhaps he ceded the intellectual property rights for something he created while using a development environment. Perhaps I agreed to transaction fees and automatic services I never intended to.
In my constant search for silver linings, I came across this gem. It seems that there can be an occasional upside to the invisible end user license agreement. Most of you will be familiar with the feature of in-car communication/navigation systems that automatically call 911 if the airbag deploys – on the assumption that the car has been in a crash. This safety feature can be life-saving if the driver is rendered unconscious, unable to dial for herself, or doesn’t know where she is. Of course there is a double check feature in which the operator calls the driver to verify that there was an incident. If the driver is not incapacitated, he or she can decline the rescue.
In a later call from emergency services made to Bernstein directly, the driver denied all knowledge of any accident. The driver told the dispatcher that “everything was fine,” before the dispatcher said, “Ok but your car called in saying you’d been involved in an accident. It doesn’t do that for no reason. Did you leave the scene of an accident?”
What does this have to do with those inscrutable end user license agreements? In this case, the driver was the cause of a hit and run crash. Her airbag deployed and she was called by the operator to see if she was OK. Since she had fled the scene, of course she declined the service, denied being in a crash, and hung up. But because of the end user license agreement, the data was recorded. A subsequent police investigation was able to pinpoint her GPS location and match it with the hit and run. She was taken to the hospital and then to jail.
I am loathe to use anecdotal evidence in making any conclusions. Just because there is one positive case, that doesn’t mean the situation regarding these agreements is a good one. It may be better to lose this one positive case in return for losing all the negative ones also. But since we are stuck with the negative ones anyway, at least for now, let’s engage in the temporary indulgence of enjoying this story.
What is your take on the story? Is this really a positive case? Or am I really stretching it here?
Image Credit: tookapic