Software, Technology

Review: Terms of Service – Didn’t Read

Witchburning by Robert Benner (mullica)We reserve the right to enslave your first-born whilst burning you alive inside a wicker effigy after harvesting your organs for transplant surgery. Without anaesthetic. Click here to agree to these Terms of Service.

“Terms of Service; Didn’t Read” (short: ToS;DR) is a young project started in June 2012 to help fix the “biggest lie on the web”: almost no one really reads the terms of service we agree to all the time.

How onerous, exploitative or indeed dangerous are all these Terms of Service? How can you tell? What do you need to know?

ToS;DR aims at creating a transparent and peer-reviewed process to rate and analyse Terms of Service and Privacy Policies in order to create a rating from Class A to Class E.

Terms of Service - Didn't ReadInspired by internet acronym TL;DR which stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read” this site was founded during the 2011 Chaos Communication Camp, some people from Unhosted set about creating web apps that give users control over their valuable user data and privacy. Funded by non-profits organisations and individual donations, all the legal analysis and output gets released as free software and open data.

Please bear in mind that the project is still in the early phase and that most data is subject to important changes.

Classification: Making the fine print easy to understand
Tos;DR - classification windowToS:DR’s legal experts, review Terms of service and divided into small points that be discussed, compared and ultimately assigned a score with a badge: + Good, – Mediocre, × Alert, or → Informative.

Once a service has enough badges to assess the fairness of their terms for users, a class is assigned automatically by pondering the average scores.

  • Class A are the best terms of services: they treat you fairly, respect your rights and will not abuse your data.
  • Class B The terms of services are fair towards the user but they could be improved.
  • Class C The terms of service are okay but some issues need your consideration.
  • Class D The terms of service are very uneven or there are some important issues that need your attention.
  • Class E The terms of service raise very serious concerns.
  • No Class Yet We haven’t sufficiently reviewed the terms yet.

This is very much a work in progress, but don’t let that put you off. Much valuable work is being done in reading all this guff so that you don’t have to.

There are, of course, several disclaimers:

  • Nothing here should be considered legal advice. We express our opinion with no guarantee and we do not endorse any service in any way. Please refer to a qualified attorney for legal advice.
  • Reading ToS;DR is in no way a replacement for reading the full terms to which you are bound. Disclosure: a list of donors and supporters is published. All legal information and Imprint.

The site also asks contributors to join the working-group and to contribute source code. Everything is JavaScript and JSON. The data is freely available (CC-BY-SA) and ready to be used for other tools, like browser extensions.

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read is a project inspired by Aza Raskin’s Privacy Icons and EFF’s TOSBack. Also related: OpenNotice.

ToS;DR is Free Software, licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL-3.0). Offer for Source (zip). The .json data inside the services and points directories are also licensed under the Attribution – Share Alike (CC BY-SA 3.0). Icons by Glyphicons used under a CC BY 3.0 Unported license. Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down icons modified by Jan.

Take a look and see just what rights you gave up when you signed up for some of the most popular websites and services on the planet. AJS

Related: How-to: More Facebook Privacy Tips

Image credit: Flickr: Witch Burning, uploaded by Robert Benner (mullica), originally posted to, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons using Flickr upload bot by SpeakFree licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution 2.0 Generic license.

About Allan J. Smithie

Allan J. Smithie is a journalist and commentator based in Dubai.


3 thoughts on “Review: Terms of Service – Didn’t Read

  1. Reblogged this on txwikinger's blog.

    Posted by txwikinger | Jan 8, 2013, 4:48 pm


  1. Pingback: Review: Terms of Service – Didn’t Read | txwikinger-law | - Jan 8, 2013

  2. Pingback: Opinion: Losing the Human Right to Delete [Guest Post] « Everything Express - Feb 13, 2013

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