Before getting into specifics, there is an area of the law referred to as "adhesion contracts." These types of contracts attempt to solicit an agreement from the user of a service or the purchasers of a product. Basically, the idea is that you print a contract on the back of a ticket or a receipt and say something like,"Using this product or employing us to do the service binds you to all of the provisions on the reverse side of this document." In most cases these adhesion type contracts are not enforceable for lack of consideration.
That is essentially what is happening with the proliferating "I Agree" contracts you have to click through to do anything these days on the Web. The companies are attempting to limit their liability by getting you to automatically agree to a contract. The bad thing is that they are also including a number of provisions that may be entirely outside of the scope of merely limiting liability. Some of these provisions may be surprising to say the least.
Another bad thing about this is that courts have upheld these types of online contracts for a variety of reasons. You can assume that the company that created the "I Agree" document had an attorney who spent considerable time and his or her client's money to make sure the language of the agreement was enforceable. At the heart of this issue is the disparity in economic interest between you and the company. You have invested no money or maybe at the most, a few dollars, but the company is willing to spend thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove that their agreement is enforceable. Do you really want to try and defeat Apple or Microsoft? Think about it.
So, should we be concerned? Well, yes. Let's see how concerned we should be.
Here is a statement copied from a recent notice from PayPal.com:
When you visit the PayPal.com website or use PayPal Services, we collect information sent to us by your computer, mobile phone or other access device. The information sent to us includes data on the pages you access, your computer IP address, device identifiers, the type of operating system you’re using, your location, mobile network information, standard web log data and other information. Web log data includes the browser type you’re using and traffic to and from our site. When you visit the PayPal.com website or use PayPal Services, we also collect information about your transactions and your activities.Hmm. It looks like to me that using these online services may involve a little more than a simple transaction. Let's see what else PayPal.com does with all this information: