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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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By clicking anywhere, scrolling, or closing this notification, you agree to be legally bound by the witch Sycorax within a cloven pine.
Title text: By clicking anywhere, scrolling, or closing this notification, you agree to be legally bound by the witch Sycorax within a cloven pine.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by the EUROPEAN UNION - Please change this comment when editing this page. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

This comic was released on the date on which the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law went into effect. Most people will have already seen a large number of updated privacy policies in the week or two leading up to this law going active. And while xkcd would likely be outside of the jurisdiction that the law can enforce, it technically does fall within the scope of the law (as certainly EU citizens visit xkcd).

There are several references made to this law, but also several jokes are included about the way people treat privacy policies specifically, and user agreements in general.

The comic is a joke privacy policy, with terms that no one would agree to under normal circumstances. In most cases, website users will use websites without reading the policies, potentially "agreeing" to something unexpected.

"purely out of the goodness of our hearts" is a phrase never expected to be found ever anywhere in any privacy policy. "and has nothing to do with ..." is a blatantly transparent lie - if this was a real privacy policy.

"governs your interactions" starts out as a plausibly valid statement including "the service" and "the website". But then balloons outward to include the entire internet and Facebook. As this presumably is a privacy policy only for XKCD, this policy should not attempt to claim that it also represents Facebook or the entire internet.

"Please don't send us your personal information" is also a phrase never expected to be found ever in a privacy policy. A privacy policy, by default, is a contract users agree to BECAUSE personal information is being stored. This is likely a reference to the previous comic 1997: Business Update

The phrase "quartering troops in your home" is likely a reference to the Third Amendment to the United States Constitution, which explicitly forbids this practice during peacetime. Refusing to quarter troops in one's home was previously referenced in 496: Secretary: Part 3.

"If you tell us your name" is presumably something that Randall does in real life and is not part of a privacy policy.

"This website places pixels" is something websites are designed to do and has nothing to do with privacy policies. Websites are more often employing "callback pixels" from companies such as Facebook and Twitter, which is an image file that is hosted on an external server that allows cross-platform and cross-session tracking for targeted advertisements. This is a controversial topic, as many people are against this kind of targeted advertising.

"We use cookies to enhance your performance." apparently says that Randall is giving out actual cookies that can be eaten. Privacy policies normally deal with electronic cookies that track user activity and store personal information.

"may use local storage" is threatening to turn the user's device into cloud storage should Randall run out of space on his drive.

The Warning beacons of Gondor were a system to call for aid used by Gondor in The Lord of the Rings. They were used before the Battle of the Pelennor Fields to request the aid of the Rohirrim. The use of the Beacons has previously been mentioned in 921: Delivery Notification.

3rd Party was a three-member dance-pop group that released one album in 1997, "Alive". In software, "third-party extensions" are small programs that plug into a larger program to modify its behavior, and are created neither by the maker of the larger program nor the user.

"requesting permission" can be construed in several frightening ways. 1. We will ask you after you die if you are willing to donate your organs. 2. We were not asking permission before, but now we have to ask. 3. We will ask you, but your answer doesn't actually matter. 4. We've switched from an organ donation program (legal) to an organ harvesting program (wildly illegal). Besides these frightening scenarios, there is also the question of how a website (and not a doctor) is going to perform the harvesting.

"supersedes" is an apparently valid statement. It's inclusiveness is quite extreme, but appears to be a technically valid statement.

"unenforceable" claims to have higher jurisdiction than any court and can somehow maintain legality even if a court disagrees. A typical policy would read that an unenforceable provision would not invalidate the rest of the policy.

"not liable" and "shall not be construed" are blanket statements that are supposed to have limiters. For example, a restaurant could have a policy stating "not liable for burns received from our hot coffee." A statement made to a court could say "The defendant's statement of giving the prostitute money shall not be construed as an admission of committing a crime." This makes little sense when claiming the website “is not liable” for anything, and “shall not be construed” to have any meaning whatsoever.

The Food and Drug Administration has nothing to do with privacy policies. As such, this is an accurate statement. Silly, but accurate.

"cure and treat any disease" is claiming to be a medical panacea. Panacea do not exist. It is also mocking the label on many food and health supplements, which are legally required to say they are “not intended to cure or treat any disease.”

The title text is a reference to Shakespeare's "The Tempest", in which the witch Sycorax imprisoned the sprite Ariel in a cloven pine prior to Ariel's rescue by Prospero.


[The picture shows a long text:]
Privacy policy
We've updated our privacy policy. This is purely out of the goodness of our hearts, and has nothing to do with any hypothetical unions on any particular continents. Please read every part of this policy carefully, and don't just skip ahead looking for sex scenes.
This policy governs your interactions with this website, herein referred to as "The Service", "The Website", "The Internet", or "Facebook", and with all other websites and organizations of any kind. The enumeration in this policy, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the users. By using this service, you opt in to quartering troops in your home.
Your personal information
Please don't send us your personal information. We do not want your personal information. We have a hard enough time keeping track of our own personal information, let alone yours.
If you tell us your name, or any identifying information, we will forget it immediately. The next time we see you, we'll struggle to remember who you are, and try desperately to get through the conversation so we can go online and hopefully figure it out.
Tracking pixels, cookies, and beacons
This website places pixels on your screen in order to form text and images, some of which may remain in your memory after you close the page. We use cookies to enhance your performance. Our website may use local storage on your device if we run low on space on our end. We may use beacons to call Rohan for aid.
3rd party extension
This service may utilize 3rd party extensions in order to play the song Can U Feel It from their debut album Alive.
For users who are citizens of the European Union, we will now be requesting permission before initiating organ harvesting.
Scope and limitations
This policy supersedes any application federal, state, and local laws, regulations and ordinances, international treaties, and legal agreements that would otherwise apply. If any provision of this policy is found by a court to be unenforceable, it nevertheless remains in force.
This organization is not liable and this agreement shall not be construed. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This website is intended to treat, cure and prevent any disease.
If you know anyone in Europe, please tell them we're cool.

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