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Column: In age of electronics, who has time to read fine print?


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The recent breach that exposed the credit and debit card information of 40 million Target shoppers should serve as a bit of a wake-up call for all of us. Over the weekend there was confirmation of a second breach among major retailers, in Neiman Marcus.

So I ask, are we as vigilant as we should be when it comes to protecting our personal information, our money and our privacy?

It would appear the answer is no. In fact, it seems to me that we embrace potentially disastrous situations quite easily.

If you use credit or debit cards with any regularity, you have to know that at some point along the way someone might gain access to your information and your bank account.

Every time you hand your card to someone, especially if that person takes it out of your sight, they could, if so inclined, write down your name, card number and the security code on the back. That’s pretty much all they need to make purchases online.

On social media sites we reveal personal information to our “friends” and occasionally the rest of the world. Sometimes this can lead to unwanted consequences.

For example, let’s say Bill Hogsnsheep’s Facebook page lists his place of residence as Columbus, Ind. One day Bill posts the following to his 439 friends: “Leaving this morning for our two-week family vacation out West. Can’t wait!”

Bill, who happens to be the only Hogsnsheep in the Columbus phone book, returns from his vacation to find his house has been burglarized.

Cyberspace can be a dangerous … and costly … place.

Another area where most of us are completely cavalier involves a phrase that’s usually along the lines of “I have read and agree.”

When you downloaded the latest version of iTunes, you had to click the “I have read and agree” button to get the software. But did you really read the terms? Does anyone ever read them? I know I don’t. I just want to download music, and I want to download it now! I don’t have time to read a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo.

Instead, I lie and say I’ve read the terms and agree to them. I suspect many of you do the same thing.

I do it, but every time I agree to terms I haven’t read, I wonder if this will be the time I get burned.

I picture scenarios like the one where a tow truck pulls up in front of my house, and the driver starts to put my car on the hook. When I run outside to stop him, he hands me a piece of paper.

“Remember when you created your account on BuyBuyBuy.com?” he asks, pointing at the paper. “You clicked the box that said you read and agreed to the terms, right?”

“Yeah, I guess,” I reply.

“Then surely you remember reading Section 3, Subsection 2a, which clearly states, ‘If account holder does not spend at least $50 in any given month, his or her vehicle can and will be confiscated.’”

“I didn’t really read that … nobody does,” I say.

“Yeah,” the driver replies with a chuckle, “we get a lot of nice vehicles that way.”

Even when social media giant Facebook comes right out and tells us it has changed its policy regarding what it can do with our personal information, most of us don’t bother to find out what that means. Maybe we should.

Ding-dong.

Hold on, someone’s at the door.

“Can I help you?”

“Hello, Mr. Showalter, my name is Satan, and I’m here to collect your soul.”

“What? I never sold you my soul!”

“No sir, you did not. But Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook did. And according to our records, you checked the box agreeing to the deal. So come along quickly, I have several more stops to make.”

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or

dshowalter@therepublic.com.

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