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EFF Launches TOS Tracker 65

stoolpigeon writes with this quote from the EFF: "'Terms of Service' policies on websites define how Internet businesses interact with you and use your personal information. But most web users don't read these policies — or understand that the terms are constantly changing. To track these ever-evolving documents, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is launching TOSBack: a 'terms of service' tracker for Facebook, Google, eBay, and other major websites. ... The issue of terms-of-service changes — and how and why they are made — was highlighted earlier this year when Facebook modified its terms of use. Facebook users worried that the change gave the company the right to use members' content indefinitely. After a user revolt, Facebook announced that it would restore the former terms while it worked through the concerns users had raised."
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EFF Launches TOS Tracker

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  • Diff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EkriirkE ( 1075937 ) on Friday June 05, 2009 @07:54PM (#28228973) Homepage
    A wiki-style diff/versioning would be nice.
    • Re:Diff (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Caledfwlch ( 1434813 ) on Friday June 05, 2009 @10:26PM (#28229635)
      I think a Federal law should be passed requiring not only web sites but all TOS documents to produce a diff version so it's easy to see what has changed since the last version. Who has time to re-read all the credit card, phone company, etc. lengthy TOS documents to find the one or two line that have subtly changed.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Who has time to re-read all the credit card, phone company, etc. lengthy TOS documents to find the one or two line that have subtly changed.

        Who cares about reading all the credit card, phone company, etc. lengthy TOS at all?

        • I would always, ALWAYS strongly recommend that people read the terms and conditions of what they sign up for, especially when it's things like bank accounts or credit cards where they could lead to immense hardship.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That would get lobbied right into the ground before the initial draft cooled coming out of the laser printer.

        There's no way that big business will allow themselves to be forced to explain to their consumers just exactly what new ways they've come up with to screw them over in the name of profits and shareholder value.

      • Actually, my bank does pretty much just that. Every year when they send out the new TOS (or when they otherwise make changes), in addition to sending out the complete version, they have an additional little pamphlet that explains what changed in (no doubt PR reviewed, but it's better than nothing) plain English, as well as listing the new legal terms with the changes in BOLD. (I don't recall whether they actually list the old terms or not, thus completing the parallel to diff, however.)

        They're also pretty

        • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )

          I've seen a TOS update, I think from PayPal, with highlighting like a diff (removed lines marked in one color, added ones in another).

      • Just require that EULAs never be removed from the site, and they must be easily accessible from the current EULA. Let users make their own comparisons, e.g. with this new tool. This puts the minimum burden on publishers while still providing the necessary information to consumers. Settling on a diff format will be impossible :(

      • I approve of this law, but only after it's adopted for laws itself. I have a hard time seeing why we can't treat legal code like... code.

  • by Pinckney ( 1098477 ) on Friday June 05, 2009 @08:04PM (#28229035)

    IANAL, but as far as I understand, if you need a special add-on to ensure that you see their updates, their updates mean nothing. If you must see and click through a TOS to use the service, it is binding. If you need to take action to see the TOS, it is not. So don't install this, don't view their updates, and save a copy of the TOS that does apply to you.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      I thought that a EULA could not be legally binding? Last I knew it wasn't a legal agreement, although it does give them ammunition in court...
      • by psxndc ( 105904 )

        I thought that a EULA could not be legally binding? Last I knew it wasn't a legal agreement, although it does give them ammunition in court...

        Can someone please point me to the source of this repeated misinformation?? Every time a EULA is mentioned on slashdot, someone says "I thought EULAs aren't enforceable." Where are you getting this from?? Let me be clear:

        EULAs ARE ENFORCEABLE.* See the ProCD case [wikipedia.org] and Hill v. Gateway. [lawnix.com]

        And yes, IAAL.

        * provisions of a EULA MAY be ruled unconscionable by a court, but you are going into the battle losing.

    • by samkass ( 174571 )

      It doesn't matter what is legally binding here. You've already given them your bio information and legally there's nothing stopping them from doing whatever they want with it. Facts aren't copyrighted. Now, images and writing is, which is why Facebook's rights to reproduce the works are important.

      • by cawpin ( 875453 )

        You've already given them your bio information and legally there's nothing stopping them from doing whatever they want with it.

        Well, except that little thing called contract law. You violating their terms gets you kicked off their site. Them violating their terms, by selling or giving away your information when their own TOS say they won't, is illegal.

    • I agree, in part. (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > IANAL, but as far as I understand, if you need a special add-on to ensure that you see their updates, their updates mean nothing.

      Actually, I think that a judge is more likely to rule that the changes are binding if you clearly had notice of them.

      So if you install this, use it, and continue to use the service after some negative change to their policy, you're more likely to be found to have agreed to it, no matter how unreasonable that change was.

      In short, I won't be using this thing. IANAL, but I'd ra

    • by Gerzel ( 240421 ) *

      Nice legal theory. Please try to test it out in court. We'll wait.

      • As I said, I'm not a lawyer. I do recall reading Sotomayor's opinion from Specht v. Netscape, that "[I]n circumstances such as these, where consumers are urged to download free software at the immediate click of a button, a reference to the existence of license terms on a submerged screen is not sufficient to place consumers on inquiry or constructive notice of those terms." A virtually identical argument could be made for a resource made available as website, rather than for download. No, it does not guara
        • Hey! Don't let things like legal precedent and facts enter into the conversation! You might upset the corporate apologists and other tools. I have no problem with businesses making their terms available and attempting to cover their liabilities, but I think it has gotten way out of hand. My opinion is that the whole concept of overwhelming consumers with literal pages of fine print in TOS's and EULA's, and then requiring them to accept the terms in order to use their product or service is clearly a decepti
  • by Anonymous Coward

    TOSBackTOS.org which tracks the TOS of TOSBack.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Shikaku ( 1129753 )

      Imagine a beowulf cluster of TOS tracking, where TOSBack.org tracks the TOS changes to TOSBackTOS.org that tracks the TOS changes to TOSBack.org which tracks...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 05, 2009 @08:16PM (#28229083)

    ToS and the control they provide to the likes of Flickr are a symptom of the provider-consumer split. In the early days of the internet, people understood that you don't need a central service to host your web page, that you do not need to give a third party rights to your photos if you just want to share them with your friends. New users don't know that anymore. When they want to do something with the web, they look around for some service which does it for them, in exchange for their content. It's so easy, who cares that you have to sign away your rights?

    • by foniksonik ( 573572 ) on Friday June 05, 2009 @08:39PM (#28229185) Homepage Journal

      in the early days of the internet the people who used it all had online storage space. Most people today do not. They have whatever their ISP gives them and it's usually not much and comes with it's own issues.

      OTOH if you just wanted to share with friends email still works fine. Flickr et all are about sharing with a community greater than your own small circle of friends.... like minded strangers who could become friends if only they knew you existed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Hell yeah - take email. Email by nature is decentralized. Nobody has a monopoly on email and everybody can have their choice of email providers. But when we start using myspace and facebook messages more than email, we have a problem - myspace cant send messages to facebook and vice versa. So if you want to talk with your friends, you need to join that network. The owners of that network can then have total control of how messages are sent.

      I think we could solve this problem by creating ways for social ne

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Hey, good idea [wikipedia.org]!
      • That will never happen though, since it causes facebook to loose money.

        When someone figures out something that will make them tight money, I'll be interested. That way, they don't have to worry about their loose money, because they can tighten it back up.

        • Sorry to be pedantic, but by making fun of my misspelling, you've acknowledged that you understood my intent. Clarity is all that matters, and if you understand what I say, it doesn't matter if the way I write it is "correct".


          • it doesn't matter if the way I write it is "correct".

            Ah, but you're wrong. Your simple mis-spelling changed the entire meaning of the sentence. ...Tighter.

            • I'm saying you understood the intended meaning instead of the written meaning, and that's all that matters. Quit being a troll.
              • HURRRRR U IZ TROOL LULZ. Nobody's trolling. If you want to be stubborn and purposely mis-spell words to prove a point, then I'll continue making fun of your mis-spelling.
    • "TV-Web?" TV was much *better* before the web! Why, in my youth, there was no Internet! We didn't even have computers! We only saw them on Star Trek! The *Original Series*! And you know what? We *liked it*!

      (TOS was Usenet shorthand for The Original Series of Star Trek.)

  • Which one of you PERL jockeys went and changed a good thing? Damn dudes, I know you have to do something all day, but seriously...going back to the 2001 Slashdot design would be a good thing. Screw all this Web 2.0 horseshit!

    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      There is a pref that pretty much does that.

    • There is a configuration option to go back to the classic interface. Those of us who are already using it are either slightly amused or mildly annoyed at your apparent inability to find it (and have no idea what the fuck you're whining about, either.)

  • by linzeal ( 197905 ) on Friday June 05, 2009 @08:31PM (#28229143) Homepage Journal
    Combine that with some sort of aggregating data feed from EFF and other trusted sites.
  • Wiki? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Friday June 05, 2009 @08:43PM (#28229207) Homepage Journal
    One of the best features of wiki pages is that you can see who did what changes and when. Maybe using that technology could be made a generic "important" files changes tracker?
  • by Civil_Disobedient ( 261825 ) on Friday June 05, 2009 @09:18PM (#28229313)

    Well, I guess it's great that they're tracking Google and Facebook and YouTube.

    But how about they track the terms of service on some major credit card companies, as well?

    Or health insurance companies?

    Or car insurance.

    You know... something fucking useful?

    • by Civil_Disobedient ( 261825 ) on Friday June 05, 2009 @09:31PM (#28229365)

      Sorry to be replying to myself, but I mean just look at this list:

              * Amazon
              * Apple
              * Automattic
              * Blizzard
              * Craigslist
              * Data.gov
              * DoubleClick
              * EBay
              * Electronic Frontier Foundation
              * Facebook
              * Flickr
              * GoDaddy
              * Google
              * MySpace
              * Organizing For America
              * Recovery.gov
              * Twitter
              * Whitehouse.gov
              * Yahoo!
              * YouTube

      How often does fucking Twitter's change in Terms of Service screw up your life? And real nice that you're monitoring yourselves as well, because I'm sure we were all really worried about that.

      But how about some of these bastards:

              * BlueCross BlueShield
              * Time Warner
              * AIG
              * Bank of America
              * Verizon

      I hate to look a gift-horse in the mouth, but come on. You're pissing away a perfect opportunity to actually be relevant.

      • by e9th ( 652576 ) <e9th&tupodex,com> on Friday June 05, 2009 @09:58PM (#28229483)
        Well, they say here [tosback.org]:

        Noticed an error? Got a policy you'd like us to track? Email tosback@eff.org.

      • by vtcat ( 1281774 )
        Mod parent up. Damn. I waste points on +1 Funny junk, and here's something insightful. Naturally, two are insurance companies, one telco, one cable, and BoA.
      • What about a GPL-like (copyright-ish) structure of legally binding documents, where one could refer to, say, Privacy1.0 with NoDisclosure, DonateToScience, PleaseRapeMeGently or other such defining tendencies, as well as for the Service Terms and Levels?

        Might even make it easier if you could then opt-in and/or opt-out of these different parts through the provider's own site, thus enabling a common vocabulary, better legal protections (for all) and de-mystifying an otherwise (currently) murky and manual proc

  • They are completely worthless, a dime a dozen. Anytime facebook has done anything at all there have been revolts against it. When FB changed it up some, they revolted. When FB let non-college people join, they revolted. When FB changed it up *again*, they revolted. ect...

    But oh man, can you imagine the poop that would hit the fan if they went and changed it all back to how it was originally? ah that would be epic.

    Facebook revolts are all fail, just like facebook.

    -this from a 4+ year FB user, i even remember

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MrMista_B ( 891430 )

      Well, except that - you're wrong. This revolt /did/ work, because Facebook /did/ change their TOS in response.

      What are you complaining about?

      • Well, most facebook revolts aren't all that important. They are just about minor things like new graphics. The TOS thing actually made the newspapers.
  • IANAL but I thought there was a big to do (in the courts) years ago about how TOS only applied if you had to navigate through (like iTunes) it not lust click a box agreeing that you read it (Facebook). Anyone have info on dat?
    • Anyone have info on dat?

      Sure, but I'm not sure what it has to do with this article:

      .DAT File - Data File
      Generic data file created by a specific application and typically accessed only by that application; may contain data in text or binary format; text-based DAT files can be viewed in a text editor.

      Many programs create, open, or reference DAT files; some examples include:
      Microsoft Visual Studio, Corel WordPerfect, Nero ShowTime, Nullsoft Winamp, SoftVelocity Clarion, Ontrack EasyRecovery, Runtime GetDataBack, and MapInfo softwar

  • Most of the TOS's I've read boil down to.

    "You agree to waive any and all rights you have in regards to this service. You also agree to waive your right to a trial if you disagree with our TOS"

    I mean seriously, that's what they all say.

  • Someday somebody's going to write a TOS that lays claim to your eternal soul, and promises that the product will cause the apocalypse, and that anything short of that you should be thankful for, and if you sue them, they keep everything you win, etc.

    Hey, if idiots win frivolous suits because of shit you didn't warn them about, why not warn them?

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner