Terms and Conditions May Apply

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Terms and Conditions May Apply Movie Poster Image
Important docu about how digital companies use private data.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 79 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Various experts encourage consumers not to be passive about the ubiquitous terms of service that digital companies require you to agree to when you sign up. The filmmaker wants audiences to know their rights as digital consumers -- and the way that companies change their terms of service to benefit them and share users' personal data.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Privacy experts and the ACLU make viewers aware that "free" membership and use aren't so free at all. Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg comes off like a hypocrite who asks for the documentarian to stop recording him but has no problem using Facebook to mine data about its users.


A man describes how he was refused entry into the United States, questioned for hours, and pushed around by the authorities because of a tweet.


Quick shots of provocative tweets and Facebook status updates about one-night stands, threesomes, hooking up, and other "TMI" topics.


Strong language isn't said but is shown in screen grabs, including "f--k," "s--t," and more.


Video clips from South Park, Parks and Recreation, and Minority Report, and the documentary discusses major digital companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the interviewees (a hacker) holds an unlit cigarette but doesn't smoke it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Terms and Conditions May Apply is an eye-opening documentary about the way that various online companies -- be they e-commerce sites, Internet service providers, search engines, or social media networks -- collect, store, and share their users' personal information, thanks to those long and usually unread terms of service agreements. There's occasional racy content and strong language (in text) shown on the screen, as well as blurry photos of people on Facebook or Twitter, but otherwise, this is an informative (and frightening!) documentary about consumers' digital footprints and how your every keystroke could one day be used against you. It's great family viewing for parents and tweens/teens who want to be safe, smart digital citizens.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywnc native December 3, 2013

Beware...Personal, private information is NOT private

We stay away from most of social media offerings, but apparently that doesn't matter. It is scary how companies "mine" personal data from everyon... Continue reading
Parent Written byJTReyn August 26, 2013

A real eye-opener about social media and cloud services

This is must-see TV (a video actually). It exposes the fatal flaws in social media, like publishing GPS data that shows where photos were taken - a boon to chil... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old January 6, 2016

Good but...

... it was rated a G on netflix but said f***ing on a comment shown to demonstrate facebook and my mum and dad turned it off. A mature 10 year old could watch t... Continue reading

What's the story?

In TERMS AND CONDITIONS MAY APPLY, director Cullen Hoback interviews various privacy law experts, professors, hackers, watchdog groups, and activists about how companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Twitter, Hulu, Netflix, and more are making billions mining personal data -- which can sometimes end up in the hands of law enforcement and the government without consumers' knowledge. The film explains in detail how, every time someone hits \"agree\" without reading companies' lengthy and legalistic terms-of-service contracts, they're agreeing to a lot more than they realize. Digital citizenship comes with a cost, these experts say, and that cost could be our collective right to privacy.

Is it any good?

A documentary about terms and conditions may sound as boring as the overlong, tiny-font policies it explores, but Terms and Conditions May Apply is actually a fascinating film. It should be required viewing for everyone -- or at least anyone who has ever (or will ever) used their computer to stream a video, join a social network, buy absolutely anything, or even send an email. Without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, Hoback explains how easy it is for companies to monitor pretty much everything you do online, thanks to cookies, service agreements, and users eager to share personal information without realizing how it might affect them.

Clips from the movie Minority Report and shows like South Park (when Kyle ends up in a "Humancentipad" because he didn't read the iTunes terms and conditions update) and Parks and Recreation (when April has to explain what "cookies" are to Ron) illustrate how dangerous it is to be ignorant about what we agree to online. Companies and the government are using and monitoring personal data in ways that could shock you: A middle schooler is considered a threat to the president for expressing concern over Obama's safety after Osama bin Laden's capture; a young tourist is refused entry to the United States because of a colloquial tweet about his plan to "destroy" America (as in, with his partying); a screenwriter could be considered a murderer for searching for "ways to kill your wife" for work. Watch this with your tweens and teens and discuss how to best protect your own privacy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how it's important to understand what it means to be an informed digital citizen. What steps can you take to ensure that you're using the best safety and privacy practices?

  • What did you learn from Terms and Conditions May Apply about using social networks and other companies? Did anything surprise or shock you? Does it make you think twice about what you share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.?

  • The filmmaker seems to imply that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is a hypocrite. What do you think of that one and only interview the director has with him?

Movie details

  • In theaters: July 12, 2013
  • On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2015
  • Director: Cullen Hoback
  • Studio: Variance Films
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Run time: 79 minutes
  • MPAA rating: NR
  • Last updated: September 20, 2019

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