The Biggest Lie On The Internet Disclosed - TOS Simplified



Making Terms of Service more clear

It is generally accepted that acknowledging "I have read, and agree to the terms of services..." is the biggest lie on the internet. I don't read them, and you don't read them (most probably). Nobody reads them, and you know it, even if most people won't admit it just to sound smart. Even the companies who write them know it. Well, I don't blame them. The fact of the matter is, most ToS are freakishly long, and heavily laden with legal jargon only lawyers are supposed to understand. Some ToS are just plain ridiculous. Well, now there's a service, TOS-DR, that intends to end this rule of ignorance by bringing some companies' (like Facebook, Twitter, Skype etc) ToS closer to the layman user's level of comprehension.
Many websites, even the really reputable ones, include some ridiculous and highly questionable clauses that they know most of their users won't read. For example, did you know that Skype doesn't give you a right to leave the service? (crazy, i know right?) Some can even deactivate your account without notice. And if they sell your email ID to some imaginary widow who wants to share, and put some of her money in your bank account, you can't sue them over the scam. Enter, TOS;DR.

What is TOS;DR?

TOS;DR, short for Terms of Service; Didn't read says it all in its punch-line: “I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the web. We aim to fix that. It is a service that will do the job for you by scrutinizing a company's TOS, and then rating it in terms of user-friendliness and fairness. The project from Unhosted takes inspiration fro the Creative Commons, which makes it a point to provide summaries of its licenses for the layman.

TOD;DR

The whole idea revolves around flags or badges assigned to each clause in a ToS. A company's ToS is first read and analyzed by the TOD;DR team, and then summarized for an easier reading. The clauses are then assigned a flag, with a green thumbs-up as a good sign, and a red X meaning the clause is highly questionable. Companies are rated as well based on these flags, among other things. A grade from A (best) to E (worst) is given.

Following is an image comparing two services on TOS;DR, Twitpic and SeenThis. Twitpic was given a place at the rock bottom with an E, mainly due to its objectionable terms such as "Twitpic takes credit for your content", which means your photos can be sold without you receiving even a penny. On the other hand, SeenThis scored an A due to its friendly and fair terms. According to project lead, Hugo Roy, Wikipedia is an exemplary service for them, mainly due to its clear summary of its TOS and its practice of soliciting feedback from users before a change in terms. Wikipedia hasn't been graded yet.

Twitpic vs SeenThis

Many other websites haven't been graded either. The service is still in its infancy, and wasn't supposed to be officially launched until September this year. According to Roy, it's tedious and hard work. "iTunes’s ToS are longer than MacBeth," He adds. "I don’t want to read bad ToS for the rest of my days."

The service is aimed at educating people about what they're getting into. It's not legal advice according to them, rather, just an opinion. "What we do here is not legal advice. We’re only expressing opinions," Roy explains. "But I’d say to TwitPic or Facebook, sure, go ahead and sue me," adding that it’s probably not in their best interest to "have trials about how bad their ToS are for users." Like always, we like a new idea that could change the way people think. And this could very well be it, and hopefully will induce companies to improve their ToS for users.

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