File Under: Web Services

Docracy Builds a GitHub for Service Agreements

For most of us, terms of service (ToS) are just a speed bump on the way to signing up for internet services. Terms of service agreements are often monumentally long and are almost always written in horrible legalese that even lawyers have trouble parsing. So almost no one reads them; we all just click “agree” and move on. It’s either that or don’t participate.

Further complicating the matter, services routinely, and quietly, update their terms so that even if you did read the ToS that existed when you signed up, you might need to reread it several times over the course of using a service.

But now you can use Docracy’s new Terms of Service Tracker, which does the hard work for you. The service is essentially a GitHub for ToS agreements — a way to see changes over time and keep track of earlier versions. Docracy’s ToS tracker compares versions and highlights the changes so you can quickly see which rights your favorite services have recently subtracted from (or occasionally added to) their ToS agreements.

Whenever Docracy detects a change to a site’s ToS, it’s posted to the site. There’s an RSS feed you can subscribe to, though currently it’s a firehose feed of everything, with no easy way to filter by sites you care about. Docracy also says it will be tweeting changes that are “interesting, scandalous, or just plain funny.”

While ToS agreements may be confusing, users are beginning to take more of an interest, as evidenced by the outrage surrounding Instagram’s ToS changes. Instagram is hardly alone in that regard though. Docracy has a few other highlights, like Squidoo, which removed some comedic language from their policy, but also “removed guarantees that they would never spam their users or disclose personally-identifying information.” And then there’s Geico, which recently decided maybe it will save your data and sell it to third parties. Unfortunately there’s really no shortage of examples. Check out the site for the latest changes.

If your favorite service isn’t in the list, let Docracy know, the site is still expanding its coverage. And for those who would like to know more about what a ToS agreement means, check out ToS;DR, which we covered earlier.