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EFF Launches TOS Tracker

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the by-reading-this-you-agree-to-do-what-i-want dept.

Businesses 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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65 comments

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Niggers are Lazy, but Jews are Greedy (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28228953)

What is worse - lazy niggers or greedy jews?

Re:Niggers are Lazy, but Jews are Greedy (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28230699)

I think you have it mixed up - the beaners are lazy, the niggers are criminals.

What do you get when you cross a spic with a nigger?

Someone who is too lazy to steal.

Diff (5, Insightful)

EkriirkE (1075937) | more than 5 years ago | (#28228973)

A wiki-style diff/versioning would be nice.

Hey Slashfaggots (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28229355)

+----------+
| FIX YOUR |
| FUCKIN' |
| CODE |
+----------+
        | |
        | | .\|.||/..

Re:Hey Slashfaggots (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28229429)

using <code > helps tons.


+----------+
| Fix Your |
| Fuckin' .|
| Code ....|
+----------+
    |..|
    |..|
    |..|..

Re:Hey Slashfaggots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28229661)

using <code> helps tons.

(+5, Trinsformunny)

Re:Hey Slashfaggots (2, Interesting)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229455)

Well, I can see from my screen that they are workin' on it, man. Wrong direction, but at least they're on it.

Seriously guys, it is getting worse...

Re:Hey Slashfaggots (1)

slash.duncan (1103465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28231229)

Meh. I use privoxy and already have quite extensive filters that rewrite the normal dark text on a light background to my preferred light text on a dark background. So I haven't seen any serious issues with the slashdot site at all.

OTOH, I *DID* have a problem with the rss feed links not working because they include the title in the link, and that just doesn't seem to work. (It seems to work as just the http://whatever.slashdot.org/story/yy/mm/dd/storyid/ [slashdot.org] , but not with the title tacked on to the URL after storyid/.) However, that too I fixed with a privoxy filter, tho I've had to tweak it a couple times for cases that didn't fit my original filter, thus making unparsable the entire rss xml file after application of the (then) defective filter.

Re:Diff (5, Interesting)

Caledfwlch (1434813) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Diff (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28230031)

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?

Re:Diff (1)

Joe Jay Bee (1151309) | more than 5 years ago | (#28231791)

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:Diff (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28230213)

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.

Re:Diff (1)

slash.duncan (1103465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28231191)

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 good about explaining exactly what to do if you don't like the new terms, and wish to keep the old terms (tho of course that normally means no new transactions on the account). Unlike some of the institutions making headlines out there, they do NOT force terms changes on old balances, and not only do they give you an opt-out (with the result of effectively canceling the account for new transactions) on old balances, I've yet to see them change the actual interest rate terms on them at all. That's NOT to say the interest rate itself can't change, but if it does, it's in accordance with the rules active when you made the purchase or otherwise established the balance. (The terms that can and do change are things like NSF fees charges, the specific terms under which foreign currency transactions occur, etc, plus of course rather more flexibility on any new balance terms.)

I've actually been quite pleased with them. The only thing I don't particularly like is the double-period balance (or whatever it's called, I don't think that's quite right) interest calculation method on the CC account, but I've solved that by simply paying off every month, save for I think one month near the beginning, thus incurring interest charges on new purchases for exactly one month. They've lost way more in interest from me deciding I will NOT carry over a balance even if I might have for a couple months otherwise, than they gained from that single month of interest on new purchases. But the double-period balance method (or whatever it's called) is set to become illegal next year, IIRC. I've been thinking about calling them up and asking them to remove it on the account now, and I probably would if I had a big purchase that I planned to take several months to pay off planned, but for now, it's just effective incentive not to carry a balance. =:^)

But the online banking works well with Konqueror from KDE 3, and has for years (not even requiring flash, which I don't have as it's proprietary and I couldn't accept the EULA, except for a single non-vital function, getting those "disposable card numbers"). I tell people I like them mostly because I never have to see them, since I have direct deposit and do all my banking online. =:^)

Plus, (and while I've avoided mentioning the name, this will give it away to some) it's the bank that SCO was all set to sue before it decided to try Chrysler, etc, instead. That SCO hated 'em was an extra special bonus for me as their customer. =;^)

Re:Diff (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28231821)

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).

A Better Idea (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28232059)

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 :(

Re:Diff (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 5 years ago | (#28233663)

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.

Re:Diff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28235495)

Just use this [changedetection.com] to monitor pages and create visual diffs, get a custom RSS feed of the changes, emailed change notifications, etc. It's good for TOS pages but also anything you find interesting and want to track. Especially stuff that does not change every day, so you don't have to revisit every day to see if there's been an update..

Who cares? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28229011)

EFF = terrorists

Don't install this. (2, Insightful)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Don't install this. (1, Insightful)

runlevelfour (1329235) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229061)

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...

Re:Don't install this. (1)

psxndc (105904) | more than 5 years ago | (#28247325)

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.

Re:Don't install this. (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229197)

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.

Re:Don't install this. (1)

cawpin (875453) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229291)

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. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28230181)

> 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 rather have mine be able to argue that I hadn't been given proper notice of that change than to install some extension that makes it clear that I knew or should have known about all the crazy changes they make to their terms of service.

Re:Don't install this. (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 5 years ago | (#28230475)

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

Re:Don't install this. (1)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28234171)

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 guarantee victory, but it is a quite reasonable argument.

Re:Don't install this. (1)

P0ltergeist333 (1473899) | more than 5 years ago | (#28237607)

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 deceptive trade practice, even before you talk about changing them with or without notice. Unfortunately corporations have virtually limitless legal and monetary resources to support these practices. Consumers' best hope is for high profile cases dealing with the most egregious abuses and / or class action suits.

They have also established... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28229049)

TOSBackTOS.org which tracks the TOS of TOSBack.

Re:They have also established... (2, Funny)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229149)

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...

Re:They have also established... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28229223)

Yo dawg, I heard you like...

Ah, fuck it. NIGGERS.

Re:They have also established... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28229683)

the important thing is that you tried.

Symptom of the TV-Web (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:Symptom of the TV-Web (4, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229185)

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.

One Of Us. One Of Us. One Of Us. (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28230869)

like minded strangers who could become friends if only they knew you existed.

I don't know why, but for some reason that phrasing creeps the hell out of me. All fixed smiles and unblinking stares.

Re:Symptom of the TV-Web (2, Insightful)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229515)

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 networks to communicate to eachother. Some kind of standard. That way if you didn't like facebook TOS, you could join another network, but still keep in touch with your friends. That will never happen though, since it causes facebook to loose money. Another solution would be to build some new alternate decentralized social networking standard from the ground up, and hope that it gets popular enough to topple the current oligopoly.

Bottom line: Companies have no clue how to thrive in a decentralized world where users have control, so like always, they try to make internet work like centralized old media. Reminds me of a quote from Marshall Mcluhan: We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.

Re:Symptom of the TV-Web (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28229625)

Hey, good idea [wikipedia.org] !

Re:Symptom of the TV-Web (1)

thearkitex (1420577) | more than 5 years ago | (#28230109)

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.

Re:Symptom of the TV-Web (1)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28246539)

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".

...Looser.

Re:Symptom of the TV-Web (1)

thearkitex (1420577) | more than 5 years ago | (#28258773)

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.

Re:Symptom of the TV-Web (1)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28258851)

I'm saying you understood the intended meaning instead of the written meaning, and that's all that matters. Quit being a troll.

Re:Symptom of the TV-Web (1)

thearkitex (1420577) | more than 5 years ago | (#28258955)

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.

The Original Series (Re:Symptom of the TV-Web) (0, Redundant)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28230783)

"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.)

Slashdot looks FUCKED UP in Camino (1, Offtopic)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229085)

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!

Re:Slashdot looks FUCKED UP in Camino (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28229391)

MOD PARENT UPpppppppp

Re:Slashdot looks FUCKED UP in Camino (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28232009)

There is a pref that pretty much does that.

Re:Slashdot looks FUCKED UP in Camino (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28232073)

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.)

Can someone make a firefox plugin (3, Interesting)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229143)

Combine that with some sort of aggregating data feed from EFF and other trusted sites.

Wiki? (2, Interesting)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229207)

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?

Should be ToS (0, Offtopic)

Jeff321 (695543) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229271)

TOS = The Original Series; ToS = Terms of Service. Thank you for your time.

Re:Should be ToS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28230315)

You must be a baby boomer. Complaining about others' spelling and grammar, even though you people taught them with the wrong method. Whole word reading is for Egyptian or Chinese, not English. Phonics is the proper way, assholes.

The original series would be tOS. TOS is the operating system for an Atart ST, Tramiel Operating System. The Tramiel clan went back in time and killed the real original Star Trek crew and made them change the acronym so the first letter was lower case. It was big news in 2083.

How 'bout something more useful? (3, Insightful)

Civil_Disobedient (261825) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:How 'bout something more useful? (5, Insightful)

Civil_Disobedient (261825) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:How 'bout something more useful? (4, Informative)

e9th (652576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229483)

Well, they say here [tosback.org] :

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

Re:How 'bout something more useful? (1)

vtcat (1281774) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229813)

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.

yeah. Seriously. Mod grand-parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28231259)

That list sorta looks like The Point this article should really be all about. (Although I remain deeply suspicious of Facebook, et al.)

Re:How 'bout something more accessible? (1)

An anonymous Frank (559486) | more than 5 years ago | (#28231533)

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 process mostly only feasibly available to the advised.

Facebook revolts (0)

weirdcrashingnoises (1151951) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229349)

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 when facebook had the "the" lol

Re:Facebook revolts (2, Insightful)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229397)

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

What are you complaining about?

Re:Facebook revolts (1)

sneilan (1416093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28229607)

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.

TOS Tracker? Sign me up! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28230395)

Man, I think it's really great that someone's started a BitTorrent tracker just for old Star Trek episodes. I cannot tell you how often I've been thinking "Man, I really could use some Spockâ"McCoy foreplay right about now" and not have had the disk space to keep it all around at once! Thanks, EFF!

good idea (1)

AnAdventurer (1548515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28230453)

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?

Re:good idea (1)

unfasten (1335957) | more than 5 years ago | (#28230593)

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 software.

and for on topic: I've never heard of that court case but it doesn't seem much different than just clicking through. The only thing it adds is forcing you to scroll the box but they still write them legalese that slowly drives you insane.

Don't forget telcos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28230641)

AT&T changed their terms of service to ban streaming to their cell phones, then claimed it was a mistake when iPhone users threw a fit. Now, they quietly changed it again to block "streaming from television" in an effort to block the slingplayer.

why the long TOS (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28231785)

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.

Meh (1)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 5 years ago | (#28234335)

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?
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