Terms of Service; Didn't Read

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read

The most time-consuming part of evaluating web tools for educational use has got to be looking at the Terms of Service (also know as Terms of Use or Terms and Conditions). They can go on for pages, and are so often wrapped up in so much legalese that even if you manage to read to the end, there is no guarantee you will be any wiser. And yet we can’t just ignore them; it is our duty as educators and as digital citizens to protect rights and understand responsibilities online.

Wouldn’t it be great if  Google Translate could do something to convert ToS into Plain English? Well, Terms of Service; Didn’t Read might be just the web project we’ve been waiting for. ToS:DR (for short) are a user rights group aiming to rate and label website terms & privacy policies from “very good Class A to very bad Class E.”  As well as rating them, they are also providing a “thumbs up/thumbs down” report card that helps users better understand individual aspects of a service agreement. The report card is written in bullet point fashion but it is possible to expand the points for more detailed explanations, access the full terms of the web tool and there are discussion pages available behind each of the points.

ToS;DR is still very new (started in mid-2012) so the number of sites that have report cards are limited, but it is an excellent example of the positive change that can occur through global connectivity and collaboration, and the project is actively growing.

This is a grassroots project, created by citizens and volunteers who take their responsibilities very seriously; they engage in a peer-reviewed process of rating and analysing to create each rating, and they are committed to Creative Commons and Free Software licensing.

While this site does not take the place of legal advice, it does help users make some sense of the pages and pages of fine print before we click, and ultimately that offers us the chance to make better online choices.