EFF crafts "Terms of Service" tracker

By Justin Mann on June 4, 2009, 6:26 PM
If you've ever made use of any online service, you've agreed at least once to a Terms of Service. While some people may be vigilant and make sure to read through every term, most of us just skip right on through – which is what most companies expect. Further, whenever a service updates their terms, they often offer no more than a brief announcement they've done such. Some may require you to “re-agree”, but even then most people just click without reading. Other companies do not even offer that, changing the ToS at will without notification.

It's situations like that which have led to numerous scandals on the Internet, such as the most recent PR issue surrounding Facebook. If you recall, their terms of service were changed on the fly and resulted in a massive uproar, ultimately ending in the company backtracking.

Unlike Facebook, however, most companies aren't interested in letting users dictate their terms of service. It is for that very reason the EFF thinks there is a need for people to be more aware of changes in services they use, and have built an infrastructure to do just that. Their recently launched “terms of service tracker” at TOSBack.org will let people see up to date changes in terms of service agreements. Currently tracking many popular companies like Google, Facebook, YouTube, eBay and others, the EFF hopes it will encourage people to be more aware of what they agree to when they create or maintain an account at any of these sites.

User Comments: 3

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Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

This is pretty cool and a great idea. I like how they have Blizzard on the list heh.

CrossFire851 CrossFire851 said:

I personally feel that big company shouldn't just have the ability to set any or change anything in a tos/toa. Some company's dominate markets and are easily able to control them. While I know it's legally found. I don't believe it's fair to the consumers. They should have to be heard infront of supreme court with valid reasons stating why they are changing anything, if it directly effects the consumer. While this might sound a bit bias. The US government atleast shouldn't allow company's that effect the masses have complete control. A great deal could be said. But what I am trying to say is... we shouldn't just allow them to do whatever they please. But then again this is a bit unpractical.

polidiotic said:

The government's involvement in private sector companies should be at a minimum. A free market allows companies to conduct business in the manner in which they please, within the boundaries of law, to attract consumers in any way they can. Terms of Service are there to protect the company, due to the actions of the consumer and their willingness to find loopholes around the service/product they use, or any mischievous acts they intend to use the service/product they have for.

Terms of Service, while annoying to the consumer, are a necessary evil. If they didn't exist, companies would be defenseless against potential lawsuits and unnecessary complaints.

They have become, however, very long-winded and confusing, allowing for several "Terms" to become overly self-serving and dictatorial. This doesn't mean that companies shouldn't be allowed to change their terms with changing times, however... it just means that you should read and know what you sign. I'm guilty of not reading the ToS, myself, but I really don't intend to do anything illegal or break the rules. I also don't spread around personal information or property on the internet, so I'm safe there.

I think this is a pretty good idea, as it will just make ToS much easier to keep track of. I think the most important ToS you can read are that of your Internet, Cable, & Phone service providers, financial services, as well as your mortgage/Realtor contracts. Anything else is pretty fair game and typically obvious.

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