Don't Click "Agree": Demand More Readable Terms of Service Agreements

Terms of Service and end-user license agreements are difficult to read if not for the legal jargon then for the way they're typed up. Web companies shouldn't make it a chore to read these contracts before you click "Agree." But it's your job to demand them.

Who reads the terms of service before they click “Agree?” No one. Even if you wanted to browse through every iTunes updated Terms of Use and Google policy, it would take an entire month out of your life each year. In the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain't nobody got time for that.”


These end-user license agreements (EULA) are difficult to read as well, all-caps text, small font, and legal jargon make the texts painful to read for anyone who might want to. But Seth Stevenson from Slate has reported that Pintrest has included a summary section to its EULA. Some think this idea could help rather than hurt the company. As a lawyer Eric Goldman, Co-Director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University Law School, explains the pitfalls of having two agreements:

“If there’s a gap between the bulletproof legal language and the more readable summary. Pinterest might expose themselves. The summary might be less thorough than the legalese. And it’s implied that the user only needs to read the summary.”

For the layman and those interested in making these large contractual agreements easier to read it's a great step, but many companies don't do this for the reasons Goldman describes.

Omri Ben-Shahar, Professor at the University of Chicago Law School, thinks that if you don't like the way web companies, like Google, write its EULAs, you don't have to use it them:

“But you probably decide, on balance, that you like the overall package they’re offering. It’s a free, luxury service. And they couldn’t provide this product for free if not for the terms they establish. You’d rather have a terrific product with lousy terms of use than a lousy product with terrific terms of use.”

He believes that if a company goes a step too far the market will keep it in check, but some people think Google has already overstepped their reach, offering no protection of your information or privacy. Margaret Jane Radin, Professor at the University of Michigan Law School, thinks more about the damage that has already been done and there's no way to legally rectify it:

“People have always injured brands by writing bad reviews. But these agreements take away legal remedies for consumers.”

“People never think about legal remedies until they need one.”

The good thing is you can vote with your dollar, or with your personal information as it goes nowadays. Don't search using Google, check out places that don't track your results, like StartPage or DuckDuckGo. Find alternative services that will give you user agreements you can understand (and agree with) and tell your friends about them. These days a product is only as good as the network of people that uses it, so build a network that thrives on services that won't try to sneak in outrageous terms, like stealing your soul.

Read more at Slate

Photo Credit: Alexander Supertram/ Shutterstock

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Flickr / 13winds
Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

Sponsored
  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org/courageous-collaborations.