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Hot Docs: Technological Revolution, 'Total Disruption,' Stolen Privacy

Photo of John Anderson By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood April 29, 2013 at 2:20PM

“Isn’t it ironic that I’m having all these technical problems when I’m supposed to be talking about technology?” director Ondi Timoner asked a very patient (for awhile) Hot Docs audience Monday. Well, yeah, but it’s hardly the only irony that’s been on display here in Toronto.

Terms and Conditions

Timoner is smart and talented, and like many who would presume to explain the current media landscape, a hustler; she can’t explain it, because at the moment it can’t be explained, even though some obvious and awful things are happening -- as was in fact explained the day before, with horrifying clarity, by one of those pieces of “old media” that everyone but audiences seems to want to run away from. How ironic.

“Terms and Conditions May Apply” is Cullen Hoback’s exploration of everything from the fine print on an iTunes user agreement to the National Security Agency’s surveillance of the American public (which Canadians shouldn’t feel too smug about). No one reads the fine print on all those seemingly boiler-plate forms that accompany virtually everything you want to use on-line; one of the better-known stories, repeated in “Terms” concerns the British firm GameStation and its inclusion of a clause in which users agreed to forfeit their immortal souls. Seven thousand souls were collected before the company took the clause out.

By the way, irony seekers: Here’s Hot Docs’ user agreement. “Terms and Conditions” will make anyone reconsider how they use the internet, post personal info on Facebook and otherwise expose themselves to government intrusion. The film includes real-life stories of people being stopped at Customs for tweets, and being visited by SWAT teams for frivolous Facebook posts. It makes the revolutionary suggestion that it may be too late for people to choose whether to give their privacy away on line. Because it might be stolen anyway.

This article is related to: Hot Docs , Festivals, Ondi Timoner, Documentary, Documentaries

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.