A (Probably) Expensive Lesson In Reading Terms & Conditions

16 Oct 2017

Phil Mellor

Here at R.O.EYE we’ve got a lot of love for the top-tier technology companies. From our simple windows desktops, right up to the parallel processing we do in the cloud for SingleView there’s a lot of technology involved.

When we look at building a new product or service our planning phases are typical of the technology business world; production of project briefs, then project specification and then into a frenetic development schedule, usually with plenty of meetings with the stakeholders along the way.

The very nature of what R.O.EYE does means that often need to connect to/download information from third party systems. In terms of technology these are not complex problems, over many years solutions have been developed to ensure reliable and secure cross-system communication. But what can bite the unwary is a simple failure to read terms and conditions issued by third parties.

If you’re building a system or service that you’re going to charge money for, and relies on a third-party service then you better be damn sure that a) you are permitted to b) you adhere to the rules and c) its reliable.

A recent example of this would be one of the data channels in SingleView (which I won’t name). The data in the channel is free to access, free to distribute etc. That doesn’t mean its without cost though… To ensure R.O.EYE’s continued access we need to comply with the T&C’s, a condition of which requires us to download much more data than is actually useful. We don’t use the data, our clients don’t use the data, but we must download it regularly to maintain our access to the information we do want.

Its silly, right? I mean, why bother? Why not simply agree to the third-party terms and conditions without reading them, get what you need and deal with any repercussions later?

Imagine spending millions of pounds researching and developing a product, coming up with some slick marketing campaign, having a big launch and then one of its key features was suddenly and without warning switched off.

A nightmare scenario, right? How could this happen? What if it’s your fault? Imagine for a moment that one of the big features touted in your marketing campaign relied on a service you don’t own, and in fact, have no control over. You’d feel daft, and even dafter still when the only reason for it is that you haven’t adhered to terms and conditions. Ooops!

This is happening at Amazon right now! The Amazon Echo Screen has been nobbled by Google!

According to the tech press YouTube has been blocked on the Echo Screen – and purchasers are hitting the forums to vent their frustration.

It seems lot of people seem to have bought the Echo Screen for their young children to watch YouTube on. It makes sense to me – an inexpensive device that’s practically sandboxed into a safe environment without direct communication (like a tablet computer would have) seems like dream device for worried parents.

But from tech press coverage it seems Amazon is in breach of YouTubes T&C’s – likely for Ad Blocking (after all, that’s how Google makes its money – if it can’t serve ads on YouTube then it just becomes a massive expense).

It’s hard for me to say how good or bad the device is with or without YouTube access as I haven’t seen one – it doesn’t officially launch in the UK until 16 November 2017 but it will be interesting to see what will happen first: the product tanks or Amazon negotiates with Google to resolve the issue.

Fingers crossed for the latter though – we’ve played with the Echo devices (without screen) and we like them… we’re just not yet seeing a useful commercial application for these types of voice active devices, but its an area we’re going to monitor closely.

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