You know those tick boxes on websites? The ones that you just have to click that say something like ‘I have read and understood the terms and conditions’? It turns out that they’re a load of old rubbish.

That’s what I’d always thought, anyway. Legal arse-covering is like a memetic virus: people see some legalese on a website, and assume that it’s essential, useful, necessary, and—ho ho ho—that it’s actually going to indemnify them in some way. So they copy it, like a cargo cult building a runway in the jungle.

As I’ve been forced to implement the stupid tick boxes on one application after another, with none of us really asking why, I’ve often wanted to just say no. But, of course, my objections had as little justification as the custom and practice of putting those boxes everywhere.

Well, now I have something to back me up. All those tick boxes are useless anyway. That’s what the FSA says [PDF]:

Consumers should check the details of the contracts they enter into. But a contract term requiring consumers to declare that they have read and understood the terms of the contract is likely to be unfair because it binds customers to terms which, in practice, they may not have any real awareness of.

Of course, not everything is governed by the FSA—and, indeed, the FSA won’t be around for too much longer—but the principle is sound:

Ticking a box that says someone has read something doesn’t mean they’ve read it.

So how about not putting that pointless box there next time?