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Understanding “the biggest lie on the internet”: Visualizing and translating the online consent challenge


York University



Project Leader(s)

Jonathan A. Obar


This project resulted in the creation of the website “,” a mobile-friendly, online resource for knowledge translation about an aspect of the meaningful consent challenge - the Biggest Lie on the Internet, described as “I agree to the terms and conditions.”

The front page of the website offers a video conceptualizing how we lie (i.e. clicking “agree” and using services without engaging policies), and three “Understanding the Biggest Lie on the Internet” research reports unpacking reasons why we lie. The first is a policy length analysis, presenting total words, reading speed and time for the combined terms of service (TOS) and privacy policy (PP) for 70 digital services including: social media, popular apps, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and banks (Canada and the USA). The second research report is a policy complexity analysis including grade reading levels for the same services. Both reports include data visualizations (i.e. figures and tables). The third report presents a video about how clickwraps – digital prompts that offer individuals the opportunity to accept or decline a digitally-mediated policy – contribute to the biggest lie. The site includes a glossary, an about page, and links to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram project profiles. Two videos produced as part of this project are also posted to YouTube.

Additional knowledge mobilization activities include: one academic research paper and presentations at three academic conferences. The research paper presented at one of the conferences won the top debut faculty paper award in the law and policy division of the conference.

Project deliverables are available in the following language(s):

The project will be posted on the organization’s website by the end of summer 2020.

OPC Funded Project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

Contact Information

Jonathan A. Obar
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies
Faculty of Liberal Arts and Communications Studies
York University, Ross Building, S900
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

416-736-2100 ext. 33873

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