TERMS OF SERVICE; DIDN’T READ

I’ve always wanted there to be a service like this. I just didn’t know I wanted it.

I’ve spent many, many, many years lampooning the computer industry’s tendency to use the Terms of Service (or, for software, the End User License Agreement) as an excuse to justify doing anything they wanted, to anyone they want to do it to. And from time to time we’d see a news article or a post about specific terms in a ToS that seemed… well… beyond the pale. But we’ve never had the opportunity to actually compare various Terms of Service with each other.

Until now. Terms of Service; Didn’t Read has changed all that. Now we can see exactly how ridiculous these terms are–as well as reward companies who have adopted terms that actually approach sanity.

ToS:DR[fn]Best name EVER by the way.[/fn] has been around since June–I didn’t find out about it till now (and a tip of the hat to Gary Tyrrell at Fleen for the article that clued me in). It summarizes the Terms of Service for specific internet companies–Google, Apple, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc.–and presents the information in list format, with easy to understand icons that put individual clauses in their proper perspective (Thumbs up, Thumbs down, and an “X” for terms that are unconscionable.

It then ultimately adds a Class Rating to the ToS as a whole, from Class A (Very Good) to Class E (Very Bad). And at the end of the day you have something you didn’t have before: an idea of what each ToS is trying to foist on you, and a general idea of how these Terms of Service stack up against each other.

This site is incredible. And it’s a gutsy thing to do–I imagine a few of these companies will inevitably try to rattle a saber or two and threaten legal action. And the site definitely has a bias: the three people involved are from various parts of the FOSS[fn]Free/Open Source Software. I really hate the acronym, but everyone uses it.[/fn] community. It’s generally a bias I share, so that doesn’t bother me… it might bother you more.

All that aside, I think every reader of Help Desk should go to this site and support it any way you can. This is exactly the kind of site that can help people make informed choices when deciding whether to get involved with an Internet service.

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