“I agree to the terms and conditions” is referred to as the biggest lie on the internet.
The exact origins of the statement are unclear. In 2012, Pär Lannerö wrote in a report for the CommonTerms project “"I have read and agree to the terms and conditions" is the "biggest lie on the Internet" according to countless tweets and blog posts” (here is the report). This suggests the statement emerged as a meme at some point online. CommonTerms launched biggestlie.com (now offline) in 2012, and ToS;DR started soon after. On tosdr.org, it notes: ““I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the web. We aim to fix that.” If you have more information about the origins of the statement, please let us know!
While studies suggest policy ignoring behaviours are likely common (for example, here is a link to a study of undergraduate students), as far as we know, nobody has accurately measured the size of “the biggest lie on the internet”.
Answering this question is a primary focus of our project.

People encounter and “AGREE” to terms of service and privacy policies all the time. When downloading apps, accessing websites, joining wifi networks, and visiting many other places on the internet.

Sometimes people “AGREE” by clicking an “AGREE” or “JOIN” button, and sometimes people “AGREE” just by using services. For example, using Google search, a smart device, or a smart TV means you agree to associated policies, even if you don’t specifically click “AGREE”. Even walking into a mall often means that you “AGREE” to the terms of their privacy policy.

Ask yourself, how often do you encounter policies? How often do you read or understand them?

We lie a lot, don’t we?
It suggests people access, read, and understand policies before they agree to them. It also suggests people understand all implications of agreement.
This is a difficult question.

At this early stage our project goals are: a) unpack “the biggest lie on the internet” concept through empirical research, and b) raise awareness of the problem.

Perhaps if more people think “am I lying?” every time they see a clickwrap, that awareness might help change future discussions (e.g. with government, advocacy, and industry) about privacy and reputation online.

We recommend that you explore some of the leading efforts by different groups trying and address challenges like “the biggest lie on the internet”. Visit our Explore Potential Solutions page.

If you’re working on a project in the area, let us know!
One comment we’ve heard is that the term “lie” might not be correct in this context. Some suggest agreeing to policies is required for participation online. Who has time to read everything anyways? Others suggest the term "lie" isn't correct because of the acknowledgement that people accept policies without reading them all the time.

Both of these arguments are worth considering as the debate about “the biggest lie on the internet” continues.

One counterargument suggests that if people do not understand the policy text or the implications of agreement, clicking “I AGREE” (or something similar) is arguably a lie. Can agreement occur without understanding?
Does this make the word more noticeable?

"AGREE" is capitalized to help raise awareness of problematic clickwrap designs. Clickwraps often include a prominent "AGREE" or "JOIN" button and less-prominent links to digital service policies. This suggests platform providers might be more interested in speeding people towards "I agree to the terms and conditions" instead of encouraging policy engagement.

Want to learn more about clickwraps? Here is our video about clickwraps and "the biggest lie on the internet".
Who has time to read every policy? How can people understand every word? How can someone know every implication, especially if information is kept indefinitely and used years from now?

Indeed, “the biggest lie on the internet” articulates one aspect of a disconnect between individuals engaging with apps/websites and those that develop them.

Policymakers, platforms, and publics must all work together to address this problem to ensure the future of the internet and associated algorithms and artificial intelligence systems protect online privacy.

Let us know what you think!