We’ve all been there: chomping at the bit and ready to install something fun or download new music or a new app only to get bungled up in agreeing to a company’s Terms of Service. TOS agreements are usually many, many pages long and ridden with legalese that most people don’t understand and even fewer take the time to read: they’re simply a short pause before signing up for a web service or downloading something.
If you’ve read our little blurb on the bottom of the Daily Genius site (scroll to the bottom of any random page), you know that we’re all about giving you bits of information that make you a little bit smarter than you were before. Understanding TOS really gets at the essence of what we’re all about. If you understand the TOS for a service you use all the time and can explain it – even a little bit- to your friends, we’ve done our job. And this post is all about a tool that helps you do just that.“The Daily Genius is a source of inspiration, knowledge, and learning for people who are awesome. It’s a sassy but sophisticated yet snarky window into amazing things that you might otherwise not ever hear about.”
Most of us simply agree to the TOS and move on, but do we really have any idea what we’re agreeing to? Most likely, the answer is no. And even more unfortunately, that isn’t going to change, since most of us still aren’t going to spend the time to read through hundreds of pages of legalese unless forced. Isn’t there someone out there to look through this stuff and tell us what’s in it so that we don’t have to become lawyers to comfortably agree to TOS for nearly every service on the web?
Well actually, there is. TOS;DR (short for Terms Of Service; Didn’t Read) is a service that aims to analyze terms of service for the websites you use and give them a grade so that you better understand your rights as you use each service. You can get this information directly in your browser by installing a browser add-on (currently available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and ‘coming soon’ to IE), or you can check out their site to see some major bullet points for many of the major services (Twitter, Facebook, etc) even if they haven’t yet been assigned a grade.
From their site, you can search for a specific term (like YouTube, to see YouTube’s TOS) or for a topic (ie, what kind of right are you waiving in a TOS) such as Cookies (what service tracks your goings-on on other websites?). So if you’re looking for something specific, you should be able to find it pretty easily.
Rankings range from A (very good) to E (very bad). As of this writing, only a handful of sites actually have a full rating, but they do have a number of bullet points for each one that give you the highlights of the TOS with an associated thumbs up or thumbs down. You can draw your own conclusions from there.