Are Smartphone User Agreements and Harmful Technology Legal? Part 1

November 7, 2018 Updated: November 7, 2018

This article is part of a series on corporate surveillance highlighting civil liberty, privacy, cyber security, safety, and tech-product user exploitation threats associated with connected products that are supported by the Android (Google) OS, Apple iOS, and Microsoft Windows OS, smartphones and their harmful effects.

In my last article (No.5) in this series, “Harmful Use of Smartphone Sensitive User Data  — Digital DNA,” I noted many news stories that highlight negligent, abusive and misuse of a person’s personal and professional information (also known as “digital DNA”) by companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Verizon, FitBit and other telecom and tech giants.

In this article we will look at the legal process in order to conclude whether or not user agreements, also known as “terms of use,” that support connected products such as smartphones and tablet PCs plus social media platforms are legal.

I will also pose the question; “Is addictive, intrusive, exploitive and harmful technology legal?”

Due to negligent, abusive and harmful use of a person’s collective digital DNA, it is important to establish that the published (online) and unpublished (hidden in device) terms of use which support all products concerned are legal because I believe that the terms of use and harmful technology are illegal according to my research of existing consumer laws at the state and federal level.

Harmful Use of Digital DNA by Tech Giants

Aside from news stories regarding negligent, abusive and harmful use of a person’s collective digital DNA, I still do not understand how data-driven technology providers such as Google, Apple and Microsoft use, share, sell, purchase and aggregate a person’s personal and professional telecom related information, aka “digital DNA,” to determine harmful as related to my use of a smartphone.

According to my legal counsel, if I can answer this legal question, I believe that would open the door to a massive class action lawsuit similar to a class action lawsuit that changed the tobacco industry forever.  

We only hear about negligent, abusive and harmful use of telecom-related digital DNA when it becomes public, such as the Verizon LocationSmart and Zumiga scandal that was buried pretty fast by the mainstream media.

However, what we don’t know regarding the harmful use of digital DNA is the real story, especially since personal and professional digital DNA is being acquired from telecom subscribers and authorized device users such as spouse, children, employees, via protected (by due process/the Fourth Amendment) telecom-related products such as smartphones that require payment to participate

As noted in “Harmful Use of Smartphone Sensitive User Data — Digital DNA,” telecom product users are protected by privacy laws related to telecommunications while also being protected by consumer laws associated with deceptive trade practices, which is relevant to the unpublished hidden in device legalese and product warnings that support the preinstalled apps that support smartphones.

Example- android Application Permission Statement- Contacts (Samsung Galaxy Note 8):

Telecom related products such as smartphones are supported by protected telecom infrastructure governed by the FCC, which is why it is paramount to smartphone owners and/or users to understand who is collecting their telecom related digital DNA.

Additionally, it is also highly important to understand how all parties concerned collect and use the digital DNA, which is relevant to the legality of smartphone user agreements and/or the collective terms of use associated with addictive, intrusive, exploitive and harmful technology, such as apps.

Aside from AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Amazon and Facebook’s use of telecom related digital DNA, it is unknown if a person’s collective telecom- related digital DNA is ending up in the hands of entities that can bring harm to the product user such as:

  • Data Brokers (e.g. Cambridge Analytica, LocationSmart, Zumiga, etc.)
  • Employers (Current/Future)
  • Business Competitors (Foreign/Domestic)
  • State Actors (Foreign/Domestic)
  • Bank and Insurance Underwriters
  • Law Enforcement (domestic, Interpol)
  • Institutions of Higher Learning
  • And the list goes on……

No Reply From The Tech Giants

Regarding formal customer complaints that I filed with AT&T, T-Mobile, Apple and Samsung, all parties concerned refuse to answer my questions regarding the harmful use of my personal and professional telecom-related digital DNA associated with third parties as I mentioned above.  

Note that I asked T-Mobile and Samsung to forward my formal customer complaints to Google, who also will not address this matter.

Per article No. 3 in this series, “When Smartphone User Agreements Become Cyber-Enslavement Agreements,” T-Mobile and Verizon admit that smartphones and connected products supported by the Android OS, Apple iOS and Microsoft Windows OS are not private, secure or safe forms of telecommunications and computing, yet neither company will divulge what companies are collecting and using digital DNA acquired from telecom product users.

Per T-Mobile’s nebulous admission, they only describe all third-parties concerned in this manner:

  • “there are indeed a variety of parties that may collect and use information.” — T-Mobile Privacy Team (FCC Consumer Complaint #423849 Filed by Rex M. Lee/Public Record)

Is Addictive, Intrusive, Exploitative and Technology With Harmful Effects Legal?

According to T-Mobile, a “variety of parties” do in fact use, share, sell, and aggregate a smartphone user’s telecom-related digital DNA for financial gain at the expense of the product user’s civil liberties, privacy, cyber security and safety.

  • Questions:
    • “Who are these third-parties that T-Mobile describes as a Variety of Parties plus how do all parties concerned use, share, sell, purchase and aggregate telecom- related personal and professional digital DNA?”
    • “When I clicked on “I Agree” to accept the terms of use that supported the smartphones that I purchased from T-Mobile, did I agree to this level of surveillance and data mining associated with a the Samsung and Apple smartphones that I purchased from T-Mobile for my wife, children and myself?”
  • Answer: “Due to unpublished application legalese and application product warnings associated with pre-installed content such as addictive, intrusive, harmful and exploitive apps, I say no due to fraud inducement (misleading advertising) and deceptive trade practices related to full disclosure of surveillance and data mining business practices employed by T-Mobile, Apple, Samsung, Google plus all relevant pre-installed content developers”

Per recent news reports coupled with admissions made by tech executives and product designers, the reports confirm that there are other forms of harm that can be associated with the use of social media platforms, plus uncontrollable preinstalled apps that support smartphones, tablets, PCs and connected products in general.

Other forms of harm include the use of addictive, intrusive, exploitive and harmful technology, which was admitted by former Google and Facebook senior executives and product designers that include Erich Schmidt (Alphabet Inc./Google), Sean Parker (Facebook and Spotify) and Tristan Harris (Alphabet Inc./Google).

The Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, the Fitbit Military Classified Information incident and the Verizon LocationMart scandal also showed us how data brokers can use a person’s collective digital DNA in a harmful manner.

There is another form of harm that I need to highlight that is relevant to the legality of user agreements before I expose what I believe are violations of privacy, telecommunication and consumer laws associated with the collective terms of use that support all products concerned.

Terms of use do not explain how data-driven technology providers and data brokers use a person’s personal and professional digital DNA such as using artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and suggestive technology in order to manipulate a technology product user into taking action.

Tech giants such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook coupled with data brokers are conducting experiments on smartphone, social media and connected product users by applying AI to a person’s collective digital DNA to capitalize on that person’s personal preferences, which is used in conjunction with predictive analytics and suggestive technology to manipulate a tech product user into taking action.  

Per a creepy science fiction movie based on George Orwell’s 1984, data-driven technology developers view their product users as lab rats to be experimented on regardless of the harm that may come to the user even if the user is a child.

Secret Physiological Experiments

Don’t take my word for this astonishing claim. Mike Schroepfer, chief technology officer of Facebook, admitted that Facebook conducts secret physiological experiments on the Facebook user, according to a report, “Facebook Sorry – Almost – for Secret Philological Experiment on Users,” published by The Guardian on Oct. 2, 2014.

Admitting potential harm, Schroepfer said this: “It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently … For example, we should have considered other non-experimental ways to do this research.”

Furthermore, Sean Parker, co-founder of Facebook, and Tristan Harris, former Google product designer, have publicly admitted that Facebook and Google products are intentionally designed to be addictive regardless of the risk to the user, whether the user is an adult, teen or even a child.

Parker also noted that addictive technology is harmful. In a November 2017 interview with Axios, he said, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

Designed to Be Addictive

What Parker did not mention is the fact that addictive technology also harmfully impacts teens and adults as well as children.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates for teens rose between 2010 and 2015 after they had declined for nearly two decades citing one factor could be associated with the rise of social media user among teens.

I believe that rise in teen suicide is partly caused by psychologically harmful addictive technology developed by tech giants such as Google and Facebook as publicly admitted by Parker and Harris.  

It may turn out that cyber-addiction coupled with the use of addictive, intrusive, exploitive and harmful technology could be as bad and as destructive as alcohol and drug addiction – and even possibly worse – due to the use of the technology by children and teens.

Also not discussed in the interviews with Parker and Harris, as far as I know, is the fact that data- driven technology providers also use artificial intelligence (“AI”), predictive analytics and suggestive technology to manipulate their product users into taking action such as:

  • Clicking on a link
  • Engaging an automated chat bot that the user thinks is a real person
  • Purchasing a retail product
  • Voting for a presidential candidate (e.g. Facebook Cambridge Analytica)
  • And the list goes on …

The misuse of AI, predictive analytics and suggestive technology is the equivalent to the misuse of subliminal advertising, which is highly illegal.

Harmful use of a person’s digital DNA is a relevant reason why we need to understand if the collective terms of use that support all products concerned are legal, especially since user agreements are supporting addictive, intrusive, exploitive and harmful technology.

After all, who wants to pay for telecommunication products such as a smartphone that is supported by addictive, intrusive, harmful and exploitive content, which is supported by deceptive trade practices?

Question: “Why is harmful technology relevant to the collective terms of use that support all products concerned?”

Answer: “Harmful technology is relevant because all products concerned are supported by unpublished (hidden in device) terms of use, which include application legalese that contains application product warnings that are not transparent to the product owner or the product user, which includes children and teens.”

  • Example- android (Google) Social Media Application Permission Statement with a Product Warning to Censor Speech meaning that the Product User Could be Harmed (Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone):

Who is Protecting Us from Smartphones’ Harmful Effects?

What is astonishing is the fact that the AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, coupled with the FCC, FTC and state attorneys general, are not taking action to protect citizens, teens, children and business professionals in light of the public admissions made by Schroepfer (Facebook), Parker (co-founder Facebook and Spotify) and Harries (former Google product designer).

Regarding my research on all products concerned and admissions made by all parties concerned, it is obvious that smartphones, tablet PCs, voice automate assistants and connected products in general are supported by addictive, intrusive, exploitive and harmful technology, which are all supported by misleading terms of use.

Closing Questions:

  • Who is asleep at the FCC and FTC especially officials responsible for protecting the privacy of children via the FTC’s Children’s Online Protection Act (COPPA) – 1998?
  • Why is AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint selling smartphones that are supported by preinstalled addictive, intrusive, exploitive and harmful technology putting their telecom subscribers (“paying customers”- individuals/businesses) and authorized device users (spouse, children, employees) in harm’s way?
  • Why are lawmakers conducting meaningless congressional hearings that result in no changes plus meaningless apologies from tech executives such as Mark Zuckerberg?
  • According to my research, coupled with admissions made by Sean Parker, Tristian Harries, T-Mobile and Verizon, it is clear that numerous laws are being violated by all parties concerned yet the FTC, FCC, DOJ, DHS, state attorneys general and lawmakers are not willing to protect citizens, children and business professionals from predatory surveillance and data mining business practices that can result in harm to the technology product user. Why?

I will try to answer these most important questions within Part 2 of this article, which will be published next.

I will cover specific consumer laws at the state and federal level that I believe are being violated today.

The violations that I will expose will be backed by hard data, information and photographic evidence that I have submitted to:

  • T-Mobile;
  • AT&T;
  • Verizon;
  • Samsung;
  • Apple;
  • Google;
  • The FTC, FCC, various state attorneys general and lawmakers; and
  • Mainstream media such as 60 Minutes and CBS News.

I will also shed light on why I believe that government agencies such as the FCC & FTC, state attorneys general and lawmakers are not willing to protect citizens, children and business professionals from addictive, intrusive, harmful and exploitive technology developed by companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook.

I will also explain why mainstream media outlets refuse to publish some of my findings.

Look for Part 2, “Are Smartphone User Agreements and Harmful Technology Legal?”

Rex M. Lee is a privacy and data security consultant and Blackops Partners analyst and researcher: www.MySmartPrivacy.com

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.