Anyone who is active in the digital world must have come across “Disclaimer” or surely has come across some kind of policy. Most of these disclaimers and policies are NOT read by people, but still accepted by most of them. In some cases it probably does not mean much to people. Interestingly at the same time people are the one who demand to have such disclaimers and policies. If not anything else then recent discussions about personal data privacy is something a lot of people can relate to. I am not sure what triggered those wide and strong debates, but for sure people were happy to back it up on any platform they could find. In my opinion not all disclaimers and policies are the creation of corporates. They exists because people wanted it. If data privacy is an example for updated and elongated policies, then what can we use to have a good example for disclaimer. Well, who has been to those bungee-jumps or free fall rides or other such extreme activities. Those generally include disclaimer that these are serious activities and one is doing it on their own risk. An example: (I replaced the company’s name with ‘Provider'”)
I am fully aware that bungee jumping, zip-line tours and its related activities, is a dangerous sport and contains inherent risks and dangers (including, but not limited to, serious injury or death), that no amount of care, caution, instruction or expertise can eliminate. I understand the scope, nature and extent of the risks involved and voluntarily and freely choose to assume any and all such risks. I hereby fully and forever waive, release and discharge “Provider” from any and all loss, liability, claims, expenses, demands, actions, and causes of action whatsoever arising out of any damages, both in law and in equity, in any way resulting from personal injuries, conscious suffering, death or property damage sustained by me arising out of training, bridge walking, climbing, falling, ascending, bungee jumping, zip-line tours or any other related activities. Exemption from liability includes loss, liability, claims, expenses, damages or injury resulting from the negligence of “Provider” or from any other cause or causes.
Do people really sign it after reading that even if it is the mistake of the provider, they would not take any action against them? On the contrary people starts to shout and beat poor airline attendant, if their luggage is delayed or misplaced. People want to fill complaint forms and refund forms for the negligence of the airline. Is that small baggage worth more than person himself? In the case of airline, that poor fellow at the receiving side of the fire usually has no clue about what happened to that luggage and in no case was himself responsible for it. My guess is that a lot of people do not read those documents thoroughly. Another comparison to extreme sports would be driving a vehicle. There is a whole volume of documents people sign to get insured in case they happen to come across an accident. People go to necks of each other, even if it happened by unpredictable incident and not negligence!
What made me write this article was the below disclaimer that I received in an email. On one side company goes on to write elaborate documents as to how they take care of your data and do not share your data with anyone and so on. On the other hand, it seems like they can get away from it by writing a simple disclaimer that seems to runs on ethics of the some random person. If you read it piece by piece you see complications in it.
- First of all, a confidential and non-public communication can just go to anyone by “error”.
- Notice, how in simple words, it is asked from the receiver to “advice the sender”. I mean how many times do you receive a system generated email to which you can reply to? Almost all of those email IDs are only for one sided communications. So, what the receiver is expected to do? To go to the website of the sender and find some proper email ID to send the message? If one does opens the website, one can come across variety of email IDs and usually none would be specific to receive such kind of communication. Or the receiver is expected to call some number and go through the IVR to get to someone who would not know what the caller is talking about!
- Next one is interesting. “Delete it from “your” system”. What is system? Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft or the company’s mail server? Even it is most likely it is not the receiver’s system. One can delete it by using the functionality provided, but does that means it has been deleted from the system? Maybe receiver is now also expected to read and understand the email service provider’s data retention and archiving policy, at least.
- Then it gets even more interesting that deletion should happen only if it is permitted by law! How many receivers went to know if it is permitted by law. I bet that even people having law degrees would have to think before they can start looking which law book to open to know, if it is permitted to delete an email or not! What if the communication is happening across nations (which usually is the case when using providers like google or others).
- Then comes the hammer at the end. “maybe unlawful”. So a big corporate with probably a special legal department leaves the statement “maybe” to be confirmed by a common non-legal person!
What if you happened to find a corporate confidential and non-public document and share it to wikileaks? The corporate would hunt you down. But, in case of an individual document, for which corporate is responsible, if it goes in the hands of some random person, company does not seems to take any responsibility. What would an individual do, if he somehow finds out about it? Can he go against the person who mis-used it? How to file complaint against the corporate?
What would you do?
- Would you contact the sender?
- Would you delete the mail?
- Block the sender?
The content of the electronic conversation on this website is confidential, non-public and is intended solely for the addressee. If you have received this electronic communication in error, please advice the sender immediately and delete it from your system (if permitted by law). Access to the original addressee is not permissible, and maybe unlawful.
Identity and identity verification is a big deal, especially nowadays on digital platform. I won’t get into its details as that would need its own article. Today, I just want to consider disclaimers used in this space. One that I received recently is given below for an invoice. First of all why do we need a signature on any invoice. I assume the simple reason is to have some kind of verification that invoice was indeed generated and provided by some authentic person working for some company. There was a time when invoices were manually filled and then signed and stamped. In some cases it is still a valid practice. Of course to make it easy one can have it done on computer or by a computer. Example could be an online purchase. But, independent of that an invoice must have a way to show that it was indeed a verifiable invoice. But the disclaimer claims that because it is a computer generated invoice, hence it does not need a signature. What does that mean?
Does it mean that “In computer we trust” ?
Or only low level humans are corrupt or error-prone enough to have an additional signature requirement?
Disclaimer : This is a computer generated invoice, hence does not requires signature.
Why it is not just stating that is a computer generated invoice. Why there is an explicit mention of NOT needing a signature in case an invoice is generated by a computer. What to do in case there is something wrong with the invoice? Would the company say, “Sir, because it is a computer generated invoice, it cannot be wrong! “. Or one can expect, “Sir, we have forwarded your complaint to Mr. Computer. We will update you when we get any feedback”. So what if I get a invoice from some hospital or some financial company asking me to pay a bill with this disclaimer? Just to be clear, there was no “scanned signature” image or digital signature added to the invoice. Do keep in mind that lot of bills and invoices comes with payment deadlines. In case you delay it, you will get another invoice with fine included.
I am sure, some would think what’s the big deal. Usually nothing is a big deal, till things go right. The big questions are asked only when things go wrong. To take an example, consider those people who invest in risky investments expecting high returns. Which is fine till things are going uphill. It is when things take downward trend that people starts to complain. Complains could be against banks, financial institutes or the person who sold them that investment. People usually complain that they were not informed about such things. Which usually is not true. They are almost always given the documentation explaining involved risks. However, at the time of buying there are 2 main roadblocks. One is blind sidedness by looking at only the positive data. Second is laziness not to read all the documentation provided or putting an effort to understand the investment. A person all fixed on the glitters signs all the documents. Now, when things go wrong, people shout, but it is this sign that is held against them that they have signed the document.
Suddenly, now we get a statement that something is done by computer and it does not need a signature! Why are then people fighting against digital ethics and morality and responsibilities before rolling self-driving cars to the market. More and more things are being done and would be done by computers in future. We need some way to put a “responsible identity” behind it. This is the reason, why despite a lot of medical image scanning and even interpretation is done by machines, but it is signed by a doctor. Imagine you get your medical report that has a statement, “since it is computer generated report, it does not need any signature ( thus a responsible identity)”. Now, if there is a mistake, then an ordinary person has no way to figure out whom to contact.
Maybe some has their own experiences dealing with such cases where they received email intended for someone else. In a human to human email communication this is easy to handle; although not always. But, when a computer and thus a system is involved, it just gets too complicated. I have written about my experience with Uber earlier. Basically, my email ID is used by some person to create Uber profile. I keep on getting emails about his trips with maps, timing and financials included. I tried all that I could, but could not find a way to get my email ID removed from Uber!
Recently, I came across a nice video by James Veitch. Next time, when I feel like contacting some customer care for such case, I will try his technique. I just need to learn how to put some automation into it, so I have more smiles than work while having this communication. Any suggestions what Disclaimer I can use in my automated emails? https://www.youtube.com/embed/Dceyy0cX6J4
Late one night a psychiatrist found himself staring into the muzzle of a large pistol. He was shocked to recognize the gunman who was holding him up. “See here, Nasrudin,” he said. “Don’t you remember me? I am your benefactor. Don’t you remember the time I saved you from the electric chair by proving you were crazy?” Mulla Nasrudin laughed and laughed and laughed. “SURE I REMEMBER YOU, SIR. BUT, AIN’T ROBBING YOUR BENEFACTOR A CRAZY THING TO DO?”