I’ve often and loudly complained about the bizarre nature of EULAs (End User License Agreements) and ToS (Terms of Service). For each and every service and program we use on the web or on the desktop, we’re basically signing an unread contract stating what liberties we’re offering to the service provider or what they can ask of us in return. I would venture to guess that 99% of the time, the EULA is completely skipped by the user. This is of course in part because the user doesn’t have the time or legal knowledge required to read a full EULA for each service he/she wants to use. However, removing EULAs isn’t an option either since companies needs to be able to control their service. What to do?
A suggestion I presented a few years ago to a friend was to only allow EULAs to claim five to ten visual icons and up to 500 characters of text. The visual icons would in a creative commons style inform the user in what way his information/content would be used and what kind of behavior would be expected from the user. In this way, the user would be able to quickly grasp what the service agreement entailed, and the service provider would have his ass covered.
The people that are actually doing something
In recent news, the site “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read” has started an effort to keep EULA authors in check. Instead of imposing their system on the EULA authors, they keep their own record and rating of each popular web service.
Each positive and negative trait is given a weight to determine the services final rating (A to F). A trait can weigh between 5 and 100 points.
For instance, Facebook.com has three positive additions/exclusions in their EULA which add up to 45 “positive points”. However, Facebook’s EULA inclusion which allows them unfettered access to ALL your content has a negative weight of 90(!). Although Facebook is currently unrated at ToSDR, I have a feeling the end result won’t be very good.
Thanks to IDG