TOS;DR Will Save Your Lazy Ass From Confusing, Exploitative Terms Of Service

08.14.12 David Lumb

Ahh, Terms of Service, the little unchecked box that stands between you and your desired program or app. And how many folks actually read those pages and pages (and pages) of legalese? If you absently checked the box for Twitpic, the service is legally entitled to sell your photos to news agencies–and you won’t see a dime. There’s no question that this lawtalk is often dropped to keep users from wondering just how much of their stuff a company owns; luckily, TOS;DR is here to inform you just which popular ‘net services are bending you over.

The project, brainstormed at last year’s Berlin-based Chaos Communication Camp and started in June, assigns grades from A-E based on the service’s choices to retain data, usage of third-party cookies, selling of data, transparency on law enforcement requests, and notification of changes in the terms of service, among other factors. To earn TOS;DR’s only “Class E” grade (‘The terms of service raise very serious concerns’), Twitpic’s terms of service allow it to retain your images if deleted, take credit for your content and dole it out to partners, and reduce the legal period for pursuing action. Though TOS;DR has yet to rate Google, Skype, Facebook, and Twitter, every service has pro/con/informational points listed. TOS;DR needs more legal expertise (volunteer now!) and source code to continue, as it aims to be completely peer-reviewed.

Though it wasn’t quite polished when it started getting media attention, project lead Hugo Roy is planning to officially launch TOS;DR at Campus Party 2012 later this month, TechCrunch’s Klint Finley reports.