Admit it: you’ve never read the entire terms of service. You click “Agree”, because that’s what you have to do to install an app or use a website, and then you never think about it again.
What if there was an easier way to parse the terms and find safe and friendly online services? Today Cool Websites and Apps is looking at five sites that give you a bit of perspective without having to spend the rest of your life reading 500 page terms documents.
Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (Web, Various Browsers): Quick Summaries of Any Terms of Service
If you want to quickly get a feel for what’s in the terms of service for any major web app, ToS;DR is the site you should check first. It offers quick lists of the key points from many online services.
It’s not going to let you know about everything that’s in the terms, obviously, but it summarizes many of the things
There’s also a browser extension for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera that lets you quickly check the ToS for whatever site you’re currently reading.
It’s the best way to quickly find out what’s in the terms of service for the sites you’re already using, so go ahead and install it. Get into the habit of discovering what you’re agreeing to.
TOSback.org: Track Changes to Terms of Service
Sadly, knowing what’s in a terms of service this week won’t necessarily help you next week: these terms tend to change without much notice. TOSback, a collaboration between ToS;DR and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), tracks changes to terms of service agreements so you can find out what’s new.
Click any terms to track changes, similar to the way you’d track changes in your own document. The service is currently a beta, and there’s another version with more information, but it’s not hard to see this becoming an essential tool for journalists and lawyers later on – not to mention useful for everyday users.
ClickWrapped: The Internet’s Report Card
Wondering which services treat users well, and which services seem to not care? ClickWrapped is an attempt to look at just that. To quote their homepage:
Clickwrapped analyzes the policies and practices of leading consumer websites and grades each company according to how well it respects your rights.
It’s just one way to look at a complex question, but it’s worth looking at if you want some way to gauge and compare.
To a certain extent trying to quantify how much sites care about users is kind of silly, but digging into the numbers is revealing. For example: Facebook scores surprisingly well, despite its reputation, because if you take the time to configure your privacy settings correctly you really can control your information – other sites don’t give you that option. Dig into the numbers and see what else you can discover.
GetTerms.io: Make a Generic Terms of Service
If you run a site of your own, you might consider getting a terms of service of your very own. You could hire a lawyer to draft something up – and depending on the size of your site that’s probably a good idea – or you could use GetTerms.io as a starting point.
Type in your company name and your location and the site makes you a set of terms that are generally advisable. The terms you end up with are free to use: it’s got a Creative Commons Sharealike license. Again: this isn’t an alternative to a lawyer, but it’s a good starting point. And for regular users, it’s an interesting look at what a “clean” terms of service should look like.
Terms and Conditions Checker (Chrome): Quickly Search
And now for something…completely different. Terms and Conditions Checker pretends to be a service that lets you scan any terms of service policy for anything you might have to give up. Like your firstborn child, or your sperm.
So yeah: it’s clearly a joke. But considering that you’ve never read the terms of service, is it that unlikely that you’ve agreed to give up your kidney in exchange for using Google Maps?
How Do You Unravel Terms of Service?
Knowledge is power, and the above services all help you work out just what you’ve agreed to while using the web. But I want to know: what other tools are out there? Let’s compile more information together in the comments below.
Maybe you’ll end up not using a service at all, because of the terms. Maybe you’re surprised that Google is using your profile information in ads. I want to know what you’ve discovered, and which tools helped you do that.