How many times have you glossed over or read the following or similar sentence:
The Terms and Conditions have changed. Please read and accept to continue accessing the site.
Dear companies, please explain what has changed instead of ‘expecting’ that we’ll just give up on the 19 pages of legal gibberish.
- Some one please make a online service that archives and tracks all ‘Terms and Conditions’ and ‘Terms of Service’ of most online services as an independent consumer rights service.
- Explain your Terms in a clear format.
- Explain and visualize changes in the Terms in a clear format
- Agreement reversal: people should be able to have second thoughts about them agreeing on the ‘terms’, and temporary suspend the company ability to use the data of that particular account.
The Terms Archive
Archive the Terms. Such an archive would look like a ‘social’ press release website. An archive per company of all past and current ‘Terms’. In such an archive people can find their own service/ website/ shop and both archive new, re-read and compare the various Terms and Conditions. Comparing terms would be of the most important features. This will give the consumer insight into the changes and be part of the change.
Message to all online services: if you value your users (being online value equity, or actual customers) you should help them through the Terms and Conditions and Terms of Service! There are several formats for that. One would be an indexed video with some one explaining the terms in a modular way without any redirect to other pieces of information, so no caveats. One should be able to ‘get’ each part of the terms. Other way’s is a ‘layman’ version of the document, explaining the consequences of each of the terms.
Explain and visualize changes in your Terms
This is the actual crux of the matter. It’s hard to see, compare and detect the changes made in any document. Companies should put some effort into explaining or make insightful what the actual changes are, and also talk about why the terms changed. A visual format would be a ‘track changes’ (like Microsoft Word) kind of version of the document. This will reflect on how your brand is perceived and trust in your service.
If someone has second thoughts about accepting the terms and conditions of a particular service, they should be able to reverse the agreement and thus suspend the implementation of the changes of the reversed terms. In broad terms that would either mean that the particular account would be suspended with the option to reactivate the account, but also block for the company to use the user-data.
[2011-05-16] We have an update, after some extra thorough Googling we found the TOSBack website an initiative of the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and TOS Back is available as an Open Source project, which implements some of the features described above! It’s still in the beta, it’s a start. It’s and archive and it does give a visual difference view. Funny to see most changes in the Terms are spelling errors.