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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Terms of Service? I Most Definitely Never Read, and Now I Don't Have To


Terms of service (ToS) agreements are everywhere today. In fact, they are so ubiquitous that I’m pretty sure almost no one reads them when clicking through to install a new piece of software or use a new online service. I’m guilty as charged when it comes to that. I never have (or make) time, interest, or the legal skill to interpret them. Thankfully, a new site I've just heard about (thanks Ed T.) aims to bring clarity to what lies within these often long and painful to read documents.

The new site ToS;DR does what almost none of us do. The people behind the site actually read the terms of service agreements for many popular websites, companies, and software packages. Not only do they read them, but they summarize them concisely and even provide ratings from Class A (very good) to Class E (very bad).

I am elated to see someone taking the time to do this for the greater good of all. The site further increases its awesome quotient by providing browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox that display a service’s rating, and also pop up a small box with the salient details from a ToS when you visit a site they’ve reviewed. As icing on the cake, you don’t have to just take their word for it. All of the interpretations they make when reviewing a site’s ToS are open for public discussion. Just click on the discussion link by any particular point and let the site’s authors know why you agree or disagree with their interpretation.

Below is an example of some useful details that you might find when using ToS;DR:

http://tos-dr.info/#twitpic

The only downside I see at this point is that the site is only manned by a small group of people and it could disappear or become stagnant at any time. For the time being, their monetization strategy seems to rely on donations, so be sure to contribute a little (if you find the site useful) by Flattering them. Also keep in mind that the project is still in the early stages and many ToS agreements have yet to be reviewed, so check back often.

Have a legal background and want to help ToS;DR out? There are many ways that you can get involved.

Images courtesy of http://tos-dr.info