title: "Fixing the Biggest Lie on the Web" author: Hugo Roy date: | 2014-11-05
@MozLDN @ToSDR #fixingTheBiggestLie
✓ I have read and agree to the terms.
Terms of service are important: our rights depend on them.
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And so we're kept in a spiral of reactions and scandals every time we discover something new about what the terms of service enabled a service provider to do.
And it goes on and on. Roughly every year, Facebook changes their terms of service. And it's always a public reaction that shows quite remarkably how much we don't like these terms.
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If only they knew what's written in Twitter's Terms of service 😉
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How did we get here?
How's it possible that the biggest lie on the web perpetuates itself?
The answer is, the design of consent is fundamentally broken. Here's how:
Terms of Service & Privacy Policies are Too Long To Read
Moreover, there's no standardisation in terms. So that means that for each service, the user needs to go read the full terms all over again.
Fortunately, more and more services no provide reader friendly summaries, or plain-English versions alongside the full terms. But this is far from enough.
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This does not even take into account terms of service, but just privacy policies!
You shouldn't have to be a full time lawyer to have a basic idea about your rights online.
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Here's your choice: Apple's iTunes terms of service or William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
My advice: Hamlet is shorter.
Terms of Service change
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We may revise these Terms from time to time, the most current version will always be at twitter.com/tos. If the revision, in our sole discretion, is material we will notify you via an @Twitter update or e-mail to the email associated with your account. By continuing to access or use the Services after those revisions become effective, you agree to be bound by the revised Terms.
GitHub reserves the right to update and change the Terms of Service from time to time without notice.
Instagram completely changed its terms to ask for a broad, nearly unlimited copyright license on users' photos --- after Facebook acquired them.
Twitter also changed their copyright license in 2009 to something nearly unlimited. Often, they include the right to grant sublicenses or to transfer the license, without limitation for what's necessary to provide the service.
How can we fix this problem?
Enforcing your rights in courts
Having to go to litigation is already a failure. Harm has been done. Contracts should ease relationships instead of being fundamentally broken in a way that a party always has to go to courts.
This is a global problem. Courts in different jurisdictions under different laws may come to different conclusions regarding these practices, especially about whether changing terms without notifying users is acceptable or not.
And sometimes, even when companies have been fined for practices that have been considered illegal, they have still succeeded in profiting from their actions.
But wait, which courts?
The Court of Santa Barbara in California is the only one competent for disputes arising from the terms of service of Youtube. The applicable law to these terms of service is the one of the State of California.
More on arbitration: http://blog.tosdr.org/posts/hannah-on-arbitration/
Fix it before it's too late!
Problem: this is hard!
Design is fundamental
Then, we codify that review and we design it in a way that gives the most important information first.
And thanks to Andreas from Mozilla London for hosting us!
Follow up, contact me by