“There’s some definite movement in the yard!” If you imagine that line spoken by the pimply, squeaky-voiced teen who works every drive-through on The Simpsons, you get some sense of the awkward confrontation director Cullen Hoback has with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during the riveting climax of his death-of-privacy documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply. Hoback locates Zuckerberg’s address through publicly available information and stakes out his house because, y’know, irony. At this point, Facebook’s disregard for user privacy and its exploitation of personal information are so well documented that this klutzy interaction between two vaguely embarrassed social maladroits brings some cringey originality to the table. Terms and Conditions May Apply uses the widespread deployment of end-user license agreements for software and websites as a springboard to launch a wide-ranging, if shallow, exploration of intrusive government surveillance practices. There’s nothing to disagree with here: Yes, Google’s Eric Schmidt is one of the creepiest executives in Silicon Valley. Yes, U.S. antiterrorism enforcement is often heavy-handed. No, governments shouldn’t spy on citizens’ phone conversations. Set to a wall of pensive, tonal music, the film intercuts broadcast news footage, film clips, and interviews with a range of subjects: typographers, inventors, futurist Ray Kurzweil, comedian Joe Lipari, and gigantic homophobe and National Organization for Marriage board member Orson Scott Card. When author Margaret Atwood quotes a headline from The Onion (“CIA’s ‘Facebook’ Program Dramatically Cut Agency’s Costs”), it’s like the coordinates of literature, national security, and Internet nerd culture cross in Zuckerberg’s front yard.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 10, 2013