Terms Of Service Too Long? This Site Reads Them For You

You don’t always read the Terms of Service before accepting them. Not for hardware, not for software, not for websites. We’re fairly certain that no one ever does. (Someone out there, please prove us wrong.) What we really needed all along is a service that reads over all of that legal language and gives you the highlights of the ToS, then explains which features are good or are bad for you as a consumer. Now that service exists. It even has little pictures that tell you which parts of the ToS are good or bad. Meet ToS;DR.

If you’re not familiar with the term, “TL;DR” stands for “too long; didn’t read” and signifies when someone on the Internet who is smart enough to use a semicolon is too lazy to read anything with more than 200 words. It’s also how people label pre-emptive executive summaries on lengthy posts or comments. ToS;DR aims to create handy summaries for terms of service. They rate particular policies and requirements as “good,” “mediocre,” “Alert,” or “informative.” In this scheme, “Alert” signifies “Bad.” Eventually, each site will be assigned a “class,” from A to F, depending on how consumer-friendly its policies are.

The project is crowdsourced, open, and collaborative. If you’re skilled at translating legalese into human language, can code in Javascript, or have other potentially useful skills, consider helping out.

ToS;DR [Official Site]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. TrustAvidity says:

    TL;DR

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Loving it. If the site becomes popular, big business might take notice and start changing their ToS agreements.

    “The greatest threat to business is a knowledgable consumer.”
    - Loias

    • Blueskylaw says:

      An Educated Consumer Is Our Best Customer

      Syms

      • apasserby says:

        Yep, I quite remember them. Years ago when they were still in business I bought a couple pairs of Lee jeans. After washing them they fell apart. Turns out they were cheap knock-offs. Got a full refund and never set foot in any of their stores again. Certainly got an education all right.

    • cactus jack says:

      The most annoying customer is one who reads something online or watches something on TV and think they know everything. Then they refuse to listen to reason and begin talking over the employees and whine to Consumerist because a low level employee refused to take their shit anymore.

      -Cactus Jack

      • cactus jack says:

        I do think this ToS;DR site has promise btw. Much like lengthy check-in agreements when you try to rent a hotel room, you just don’t have the time (or just can’t be bothered) to read every little thing you are signing and I think they’re generally designed that way.

    • lyontaymer30 says:

      Everyone knows that people still won’t read and still will have excuses. Cellphone industry, there’s like 10 ways to check your current usage but only a small portion of people use it. Then call three months later about an issue that’s been there.

  3. Coelacanth says:

    The real question is -

    Cuttlefish and asparagus, or vanilla paste?

  4. dicobalt says:

    They are far too generous in rating Google.

  5. Press1forDialTone says:

    This is awesome (yes, it truly is and is long overdue)
    As an experienced programmer I may become involved
    in the project myself.
    We NEED this type of service to increase pressure on
    Internet services to treat us fairly and should I just say
    “not screw us into the ground”.
    It is clearly in its infancy, but look out if it takes hold.
    I say send the link to all your friends to take a look
    and for the love of God, don’t say TL;DR because
    then you’ll be TS;PB (Too Stupid; Passed By)

  6. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I read the terms every now and then, but they are always so one sided I have decided I’m better off in ignorance.

  7. elangomatt says:

    I have been known to skim through the EULA/ToS documents on occasion. But yeah, I really don’t read most of it, and don’t even skim many of them. I might have to look into helping out though since I know a bit about javascript and can translate legalese sometimes.

  8. Difdi says:

    I read EULA/ToS…then I draw a line through sections I disagree with on the screen with my finger, before accepting the agreement.

    The company has no way to know what I did or did not agree to, aside from the fact that you can’t get to the software you already paid for without clicking Accept. But I could (in theory) have a cracked version with no EULA attached, or a modified version that checksums the same, but is filled with nothing but gibberish.

    There is no meeting of the minds in a shrinkwrap EULA. If I can be bound to terms I’m not allowed to read until after I’ve paid money and committed myself to being bound by them, then my crossing-out with my finger is equally legal and binding.

    • lyontaymer30 says:

      Well, wouldn’t it still be invalid as it takes two sides to agree and they did not agree to those terms?

  9. mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

    But the real problem is that so far, all the major ISPs and cell service providers appear to be equally bad in terms of lack of transparency in law enforcement/govt. requests.

    A few years ago, I seem to recall Sprint was the only major carrier that refused to roll over on warrantless wiretaps… Today they’re an also-ran, and I don’t know if they’ve even maintained this position.

  10. Guva says:

    I’m one of those who make an effort to read the TOS. The contents are one of the reasons I refuse to use Gmail. Another outfit will give a non-profit a web site BUT their TOS says in effect, they may take ANYTHING on your site and do anything they want with it … INCLUDING changing it! Needless to say we did NOT take them up on it. Instead we pay for our own site.

  11. tlvx says:

    This is all well and good. But, someone should be trying to either amend the laws on the books to make, “Terms of Service,” a voluntary checklist at each paragraph, or to make laws that create detailed uniform boundaries for internet activities, that forgo the need for additional terms.

    After all, what is the point of a unilateral agreement, especially for something that generally the consumer is paying for- in full- to begin with? I shouldn’t have to sign anything other than the requisite purchase receipt, and the terms should be whatever the applicable state or federal laws there are regarding such activities.

    If that cannot be achieved, the laws concerning, “Equal Access,” should simply be expanded. Regardless, unilateral, “Terms of Service,” should either be outlawed, or replaced by à la carte agreed upon terms.

    Basically, there should be no such thing as the likes of, “mandatory binding arbitration,” or any other consumer-unfriendly terms, based purely on ultimatums that are not in keeping with the laws of the land, regarding consumer rights.

  12. Trireme32 says:

    Hopped over to check it out… the ToS for Steam is the first one on the page… one of the comments is “Steam’s PP is a reasonable length”

    Couldn’t help but snicker at that…

  13. Bravo says:

    Received an email from Wells Fargo informing me of changes to their Send and Receive Service. Pretty straight forward stuff. Two parts that stood out the most. They can collect any amount you may owe, or
    discuss our relationship, products and services with you. And you agree to Power of attorney; limitation on liability. One part that i don’t get is why do they care if the money i request from a member goest to gambling or alimony?

    You also agree that when you request money from a Member via the Transfer Service it will never be for:
    payment or collection of an overdue or defaulted debt,
    court-ordered amounts such as alimony or child support,
    a gambling debt, or
    an amount owed to someone other than you.