Terms and conditions. When did you last read them on any site?
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So, which sites respect your rights and how can you tell without going through terms and conditions word for word? Well, Clickwrapped has created an ongoing report looking at some of the leading websites and created a neat visualisation of which sites you might be happy with and others maybe not so much.
For each site, terms of service, privacy policies and other agreements are taken into account along with each company’s track record for privacy, data protection and law enforcement issues. Then they are all given a score on a scale of 1-100.
Clickwrapped is written by Andrew Nicol, a lawyer based in New York who was previously a corporate attorney and who studied at Harvard Law School. So if anyone is primed to look at terms and conditions, who better than someone well versed in law?
Nicol printed out all of the agreements before reading them through, a process that meant eyeballing several hundred pages. “As a lawyer I guess I am more than usually conscious of the “small print”, but I started becoming especially interested in terms of service while working on one of my own startups, EveryLodge. I wrote a blog post about the legal aspects of that service.”
So by having to consider his own terms of service, Nicol also took sniff at the terms of others. “As I started looking into it, I realized that terms of service often contained surprising (even alarming) provisions that no-one seemed to know about. I figured the best way of bringing about change would be to make users aware of what they agree to when they use their favorite social network, music streaming service, or whatever.”
Points allocated equally between four categories: Data Use, Data Disclosure, Amendment & Termination and Miscellaneous. The final category being anything that affects your rights but might not fit in the previous three.
On the scoring, Nicol explains. “Although scoring necessarily involves the exercise of some discretion, we try to be as clear as we can about the criteria and we explain on each review page the reasons for the score we have awarded.” Fair enough, you have to be pretty transparent if you’re dealing in transparency.
Before you take the lid off your rage and rail against the usual suspects, you might be surprised to learn that the sites so many of us use but love to carp about are not necessarily the worst of the bunch.
Facebook makes headlines when its privacy policies come under scrutiny, but under the Clickwrapped system it is one of the highest earning companies with 70 points. It seems that Facebook gets comparatively limited rights to your content where other sites can do pretty much anything with your status updates, photos, videos and other content.
What do we miss when we ignore the Terms?
Quite a few interesting things are missed when we want a service more than we want to read the rules. Choice points that come out of the assessment include the fact that Netflix, PayPal and Spotify (links go to Clickwrapped assessment) users give up their right to sue those companies in court and are instead forced to resolve certain disputes by arbitration.
Did you know also that if you wrongly post something in the wrong category on Craigslist, you owe Craigslist $25? Interesting findings all summarised for those who didn’t look at the fine print.
Nicol says, “As more of our personal information is stored in the cloud, we need to make sure that consumers have a say in determining how our information is handled.” Quite so.
This also means that sites can always say, ‘We told you so’, and now we can too. Happy reading.
Image Credit: Striatic