A PayPal checkout with a checkbox. The checkbox wording begins with "I agree to..."

Disingenuous? Or not?

Source: PayPal.

A checkox appears at the bottom of a page on which the user has entered credit card and contact details.

We know that people tend to read only the first few words in any line or paragraph when scanning, and that scanning is a typical reading pattern when reading on the web, and particularly when filling in forms.

Since it’s immediately below a set of terms and conditions, it seems to me likely that many people will interpret the checkbox as meaning “I agree to the terms and conditions”, rather than reading the entire sentence attentively and understanding that it’s granting permission to PayPal to send marketing emails. (Without testing, of course, this remains an assumption on my part.)

The question in my mind is whether PayPal is being deliberatly disingenuous in order to (in effect) trick people into accepting marketing emails, or whether this is just a failure to clearly communicate the purpose of the checkbox.

If we wanted to attribute an extra level of deviousness, we could consider the fact that by having the checkbox deselected by default, PayPal creates the appearance of complying with a common trust-related guideline of using “opt-in”, rather than “opt-out”.

My personal experience with PayPal leads me to have a high level of trust in the brand, so I’m inclined to think that it’s not deliberately misleading.

Could this issue be addressed by better wording? Or will the location of the checkbox always mean that there will be a strong assumption that it is concerned with accepting terms and conditions?