Prompt: Chambers talks several times about becoming acquainted with the Terms of Service (TOS) of the online tools we use. Look up the TOS for one or two services you regularly use Facebook, Twitter, Google TOS, LinkedIn. Could you understand them? Where they what you expected, and, if not, why? What surprised you most about what you read? If you read more than one, how do they compare?

Responding to this as requested would actually require me to go look at the TOS of these services, which sounds awful. However, my cynical self suspects that such is deliberate on the part of those who write them: make them so awful, tedious, and opaque to your average user, who’s in a hurry to set up their account, access content, whatever, that they will do everything they can not to read the TOS, and you can then include whatever you want. I tend to just assume that if I were to read and understand these things, I’d know that I’m not protected, and nothing I do is sacred or unwatched in some way; as a result, I share as little real information with these sites/services as I can, and if I can’t avoid sharing information, I sometimes decline to go ahead with accessing whatever service it is. I do try to pay attention to discussions and articles in other news sources that report on changes to, for instance, FB’s TOS (which seem constant, and really, again, who wants to go read through the whole thing again and try to figure out what has changed, and whether it has gotten better or worse?), and respond accordingly. What I try NOT to do is take too seriously the rants and posts in people’s FB news feeds supposedly telling me what has happened with the latest changes, and how to undo them.

I know this response isn’t quite what this prompt is intended to produce, but I also think it’s not an atypical response, which in itself is worth bringing up and discussing.

2 Thoughts on “A few thoughts on Terms of Service

  1. Jason,

    I tend to agree with you that it is intentionally opaque. There has even been a movement to have simpler, easier to read TOSs—which would be an interesting cultural shift that I would lvoe to see.

  2. And which the universal icons Chambers talks about would accomplish. That’s assuming users would familiarize themselves with those icons, but it’s far less daunting if the terms are simplified in the first place and then the icons are your at-a-glance reminder for individual sites/services.

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