EFF, TOS;DR and Campus Party Brazil are Teaming Up for a Liberty-Enhancing Hackathon

UPDATE (2/1/13): For the last three days, hackers and activists in Sao Paulo attending Campus Party have been working with EFF and TOS;DR to improve the free software tool TOSBack. TOSBack is a software project spearheaded by EFF to track the changes to Terms of Service over time. It was in dire need of a revamp, and we're happy to say that hackers at Campus Party rose to the effort.

While there's still a lot to be done, we began the process of relaunching TOSBack over the 3 day hackathon.  Here's what we've done so far:

  • We started implementing a Firefox OS version
  • We began work on a Firefox extension
  • We updated the Ruby code so that people who wanted to hack on the project could work on the most recent version
  • We created a few models and controllers that were missing
  • We taught lots of people in Brazil about TOSBack
  • We created Portuguese and English language guides to contributing new rules
  • We created a road map for what needed to happen next in developing TOSBack

Next steps:
The participants at Campus Party are keen to make sure this tool is available to Internet users in the future. Tarrafa Hackerspace (Florianopolis-SC) and Garoa Hackerclube (Sao Paulo, SP) in collabortation with EFF are organizing a second code sprint for next weekend during Carnival. If you would like to participate, please email Pedro Markun <pedro@markun.com.br> to get involved.

UPDATE: we just published a guide to contributing a rule. For Portuguese, check out this guide. If you know Ruby, please help us redesign TOSBack by following this guide.  Join the #tosback channel on irc.oftc.net if you have any questions and we'll be glad to help!

At the end of January, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and TOS;DR are helping to organize a hackathon at Campus Party Brazil.  We're asking the Campuseros to help us relaunch a popular online tool: TOSBack. TOSBack is an open-source tool that benefits people around the world — but it needs work before we can relaunch it.

Campus Party Brazil happens between January 28th and February 3rd 2013, at the Anhembi Parque Convention Center, in Sao Paulo - Brazil. Updates about the content, registration and agenda are available on the official website.

About TOSBack

What if you signed up for an email service that promised not to share your private data with the government without telling you first… but then the website changed that policy? Would you ever know that change occurred?

Probably not. That’s why we came up with TOSBack.

TOSBack (from the acronym TOS, "Terms of Service") is free software that automatically tracks the terms of service of many popular web sites (as well as other policies, like privacy policies) and generates detailed summaries of the changes between versions. This helps researchers understand how website terms have changed over time. It also helps users of services understand exactly how the policies have changed and learn about changes promptly, improving users' understanding of their legal rights and how services use personal data.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation developed the original version of TOSBack, which now needs a major revamp. One of the major projects working with TOSBack is “Terms of Service; Didn't Read." ToS;DR analyses and provides summaries and ratings for terms and privacy policies. TOSBack enables them to keep track of their continuous changes.

We need web development help to create a new front-end website for TOSBack to let users visualize and browse the history of policies that they care about. We also need to make it easier to users to contribute, so that TOSBack's list of terms keeps growing and that no website terms changes are made without notice.

What kind of technical skills are needed?

Technical skills: familiarity with GitHub, Web design, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Python, graphic design, and/or Ruby may be very useful. People interested in making browser extensions are also encouraged to participate by building a browser extension that allows people to submit rules to TOSBack.


We need a new website for TOSBack. The site needs to be easy for everyday Internet users to access. Users need to be able to find current and historical policies for a website, and easily submit new rules for accessing these policies. They should also be able to sign up to receive notifications via RSS of policy changes for sites they use.  You can see the old website here.

A few specifics about what we'd like the hackathon to achieve:

Some functionality enhancements we would like:

  • A browser extension that allows users to submit new rules as they browse the web
  • Users should be able to find the terms of service based on a specific date, and be able to select any two sets of terms for the same service and compare them in a way that hightlights the changes
  • Users should be able to sign up for an RSS feed of a particular service and be notified when there is a change to the terms of that website
  • Changes to terms of service should be posted via the TOSBack Twitter account
  • Pull general facts about terms of service such as:
    • What is the average length (number of words) for terms of service?
    • How often are the average terms of service updated or changed?
    • How readable are the average terms of service?


If you’re contributing to this hackathon, you’re probably doing it because you care about improving the rights and freedoms of Internet users everywhere. And that’s its own reward. But in addition, you can also get EFF’s Come Back with a Warrant laptop sticker pack. Individuals who log more than 20 hours working on this project will get a signed copy of a Lawrence Lessig book. And everybody who puts in time on this project will get a certificate and a public thank you on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website.

Get involved

If you are going to attend Campus Party Brazil, you're invited to join us for the hackathon. We'll meet on January 30th at 4:30PM at the Cross Space Area. Please stop by! If you miss us at 4:30 PM, you can also join us at 10:00 pm. Please let us know if you're planning on participating by sending an email to rainey@eff.org.

About the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Liberty-Enhancing Tech Projects & Campus Party

Activists in authoritarian regimes, journalists, whistle-blowers, and users worldwide concerned about their online privacy and free speech rely on a range of technical tools to communicate privately and bypass censorship. EFF has spent years advocating for technology that will improve privacy and circumvent censorship, but many of these tech projects rely on volunteers to continue to operate.

We need security experts, web designers, and coders to help us secure and improve the usability and features of liberty-enhancing technologies. These tools, in turn, help make the web safer, more private, more resistant to censorship, and more available to people around the world. 

We are happy to be collaborating with Campus Party in bringing Liberty Enhancing Tech Projects to Campus Parties worldwide.  All of the projects we suggest are free (open-source) software and would be freely available to everyone on the Internet. They are designed to improve the Internet for everyone.