Title text: By clicking anywhere, scrolling, or closing this notification, you agree to be legally bound by the witch Sycorax within a cloven pine.
This comic was released on the date on which the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law went into effect. Most people will have already seen a large number of updated privacy policies in the week or two leading up to this law going active. And while xkcd would likely be outside of the jurisdiction that the law can enforce, it technically does fall within the scope of the law (as certainly EU citizens visit xkcd). This extra-territorial applicability is one of the major keys in this regulation and can be seen in more detail at the EU GDPR Information Portal.
There are several references made to this law, but also several jokes are included about the way people treat privacy policies specifically, and user agreements in general.
The agreement claims that it does not "deny or disparage" any of the user's other rights, but then immediately denies the user the right not to quarter troops in their home, which is a constitutional right described by the Third Amendment to the United States Constitution. Refusing to quarter troops in one's home was previously referenced in 496: Secretary: Part 3. Note that the Third Amendment only applies to Americans. However, less specific written laws guaranteeing the privacy of one's home also exist in nearly all European countries.
"This website places pixels" is something websites are designed to do and has nothing to do with privacy policies. Websites are more often employing "tracking pixels" from companies such as Facebook and Twitter, which is an image file that is hosted on an external server that allows cross-platform and cross-session tracking for targeted advertisements. This is a controversial topic, as many people are against this kind of targeted advertising.
"may use local storage" is threatening to turn the user's device into cloud storage should Randall run out of space on his drive.
3rd Party was a three-member dance-pop group that released one album in 1997, "Alive". In software, "third-party extensions" are small programs that plug into a larger program to modify its behavior, and are created neither by the maker of the larger program nor the user.
"requesting permission" can be construed in several frightening ways. 1. We will ask you after you die if you are willing to donate your organs. 2. We were not asking permission before, but now we have to ask. 3. We will ask you, but your answer doesn't actually matter. 4. We've switched from an organ donation program (legal) to an organ harvesting program (wildly illegal). 5. Anyone not in the EU will have (or, possibly, continue to have) their organs harvested without permission. Besides these frightening scenarios, there is also the question of how a website (and not a doctor) is going to perform the harvesting.
"unenforceable" claims to have higher jurisdiction than any court and can somehow maintain legality even if a court disagrees. A typical policy would read that an unenforceable provision would not invalidate the rest of the policy.
"not liable" and "shall not be construed" are blanket statements that are supposed to have limiters. For example, a restaurant could have a policy stating "not liable for burns received from our hot coffee." A statement made to a court could say "The defendant's statement of giving the prostitute money shall not be construed as an admission of committing a crime." This makes little sense when claiming the website “is not liable” for anything, and “shall not be construed” to have any meaning whatsoever.
The Food and Drug Administration has nothing to do with privacy policies, but anything that promotes itself as being intended to prevent, cure or treat disease requires FDA approval. To circumvent the need for FDA approval (which requires very expensive statistically significant double blind clinical trials), the labels on unapproved herbal remedies state they are “not intended to prevent, cure or treat any disease.” In some cases, this statement appears to be false, although not as patently absurd as the claim that xkcd will treat, cure and prevent any disease, which, if taken literally and not as a joke, would require the site to be FDA approved.
- [The picture shows a long text:]
- This policy governs your interactions with this website, herein referred to as "The Service", "The Website", "The Internet", or "Facebook", and with all other websites and organizations of any kind. The enumeration in this policy, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the users. By using this service, you opt in to quartering troops in your home.
- Your personal information
- Please don't send us your personal information. We do not want your personal information. We have a hard enough time keeping track of our own personal information, let alone yours.
- If you tell us your name, or any identifying information, we will forget it immediately. The next time we see you, we'll struggle to remember who you are, and try desperately to get through the conversation so we can go online and hopefully figure it out.
- Tracking pixels, cookies, and beacons
- 3rd party extension
- This service may utilize 3rd party extensions in order to play the song Can U Feel It from their debut album Alive.
- For users who are citizens of the European Union, we will now be requesting permission before initiating organ harvesting.
- Scope and limitations
- This policy supersedes any application federal, state, and local laws, regulations and ordinances, international treaties, and legal agreements that would otherwise apply. If any provision of this policy is found by a court to be unenforceable, it nevertheless remains in force.
- This organization is not liable and this agreement shall not be construed. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This website is intended to treat, cure and prevent any disease.
- If you know anyone in Europe, please tell them we're cool.
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