The importance of reading - and respecting - terms and conditions online

  • News
  • 11/10/2016
  • BIK team

A 12-year-old Spaniard learned the hard way that dreams of online glory may have consequences in real life, and that you always have to read the terms of use before clicking on yes to anything…. even if they are long and boring!

In order for the music of his band to resonate beyond his home town of Torrevieja, José Javier turned to Google. But he used the wrong tool. Instead of using AdSense, which allows anyone to sell traffic of his videos and recover some of the revenue, he used AdWords, which effectively bought advertising for his videos.
Even being a minor, the boy was able to use AdWords by associating a bank account in his name (his parents had opened one for him to save money) simply by clicking on the button indicating that he was older than 18. In one month, ad expenses rose exponentially, from 15 Euros to 19,700 Euros. The bank contacted José Javier's parents, who immediately blocked his account. Google, through its Irish subsidiary, subsequently demanded 78,000 Euros related to AdWords purchases.
"I did not know what a mess my son had put himself into" stated José Javier's mother, Inma Quesada. "He thought he was earning money. In fact, it was the opposite."
"He believes that nothing will happen. We are more realistic than him"
After learning about the situation, Google announced that it had erased the debt of the boy because "…it was a mistake. He did it without realising it. A 12-year-old boy doesn't want to spend 100,000 Euros". The statement went on to conclude: "We know how important it is that there is a safe family environment in internet use. Parents can find all the necessary information regarding internet safety on Google's Family Safety Center".
Still, the boy's mother criticises the multinational for not having done basic safety checks, such as asking for an ID card number. Of course she recognises that her son could not legally use AdWords, but all it took was a computer, an internet connection, a bank account, a Gmail account and a limitless ambition to almost ruin his family. Inma Quesada goes on to state that her son does not seem to have learned from his mistakes "My son didn't know what he was doing. Now he is famous at his school and his mother is on TV. I asked him if he realised the consequences it could have, but it looks like he doesn't realise it. He believes that nothing will happen. We are more realistic than him."
This case highlights the shared responsibility of all stakeholders to help keep users safe online, and the importance of regular and continued discussions between parents and their children on their internet use and the possible consequences of such. Initiatives such as Safer Internet Day (SID) can provide a good platform for raising awareness. Join us on Safer Internet Day 2017, taking place on Tuesday 7 February 2017, where we encourage all stakeholders to "Be the change: Unite for a better internet".
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