(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
terms of service, tracking


EFF Tracking Changes To Major Company Terms Of Service

from the watch-what-you-change... dept

The EFF has launched a neat little project, called TOSback, where it tracks any changes to online service agreements from a bunch of different well known companies, such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook and eBay. Considering that some of these companies have been known to quietly change their terms without making the details all that public, it seems like this could be quite a useful service -- at least in getting these companies to recognize that they should clearly explain why they're changing their terms and what those changes really mean.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2009 @ 2:38pm

    Now if we could just get the fiber heads scrutinized.....
    Leave my broadband alone!!!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 5 Jun 2009 @ 4:10pm

    Just The Delta, Please

    In math, "delta" means the change, or the difference. When evaluating changes in anything between two states, it is the delta that is most important.

    Thus, when ToS change, what consumers really want to know is just the delta. But service providers provide 32 pages of 6 point font ToS, written in legaldygook, and when they change two important lines on p.26, they still send you the entire new 32 page ToS to "inform" you of the changes, and occasionally to get your "non opt out" consent.

    As a result, it is seldom worth it for us to read the original ToS, and certianly not any revisions. Too much work for too little useful info.

    If the service that EFF provides is to just tell us the delta, that would be huge.

    Separate gripe: When I book flights on United Air well in advance, they often change the flights prior to my travel date. Their stupid system can't just tell me the delta, nope they've got to send me the whole booking info dataset. So instead of:

    "Mr. Kerton your flight from ORD to YYZ on June 21st now leaves at 15:20, not 15:00 as previously scheduled. There are no other changes in this trip."

    They send me an email, two pages long, with the current flight times and details for each of my four legs (two out, two return). It then becomes MY job to print out my prior travel plans, and match them to the new ones like the kids game of "spot the changes between these two pictures". I need to identify the delta myself, confirm I have the entire delta, then launch into Outlook to change the calendar entry for one flight by 20 minutes. It's about 10 minutes work, that I'm pretty sure their computer could do much faster.

    To make it even more annoying, the flight leaves 30 minutes after they said anyways, or they get you in late and you miss your connection :-(

    AFAIK, United is the master of good data in, garbage out. Their systems are rife with useful data, but their customer info systems spout out incorrect, stale data all the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Yakko Warner, 5 Jun 2009 @ 5:55pm

      Re: Just The Delta, Please

      Yes, they have links to the full text, and just the changes. (Really, was it that hard to click the link and see for yourself the "view text | view changes" individual links under each item, rather than type up a dissertation about the meaning and importance of the word "delta"?)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pr, 7 Jun 2009 @ 12:52am

    Did you actually TRY the "view changes"?

    The "view changes" link still has the full text of both the old and the new. The changes are highlighted, but still have to be hunted for.

    Shining example, Facebook change #9. Only change is the address, all the way at the bottom.

    I don't want to complain too much, it's still a good thing. It's just that my interpretation of "view changes" is "only show me the changes."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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