How many time have you clicked “I agree” with no real clue what you agreed to? Everyone does it when it comes to user agreements, but one site is aiming to make digesting those multi-page service terms as easy as reading a tweet.
Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (ToS;DR) starts with a simple premise: “I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the web. In order to fix it, the project digs into the user agreements of the web’s biggest sites and services and provides them with grades. It also gives quick, easy to understand translations of the legal mumbo jumbo that usually makes up the terms.
Sites that get the ToS;DR treatment are graded from Class A (the highest possible rank) to Class E (the lowest). For example, privacy-centric search alternative DuckDuckGo does not track information, so it scores as Class A. Google, on the other hand, keeps searches and uses information for its other services, among other indiscretions which lead to a Class C grade.
Because ToS;DR is built on collaboration, every bullet point for every graded service can be discussed. The project welcomes contributions for others who may have additional information to share or an alternative viewpoint. All of the discussion is kept transparent and open so the public can read and ultimately better understand what they agree to when using various online services.
ToS;DR is not alone in its goals. Among the inspiration for the project is Privacy Icons, an initiative to create easily identifiable icons that equate to common terms found in user agreements; and TOSBack, an Electronic Frontier Foundation initiative to track changes to terms of services across the web. TOSBack is now a collaboration between the EFF and ToS;DR.
The project is still in its early stages, and probably will be for some time—the web is a big place after all. But ToS;DR has already started to analyze the biggest services around to give users insight into terms and agreements. A browser add-on—available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera—puts the information front and center as you browse so you can make a more informed decision before hitting the “I agree” button.
Photo via Flazingo Photos/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)