Terms Of (Ab)Use

Terms
One cannot go online today without eventually being asked to accept a set of so-called Terms of Service (or TOS). These "terms" are actually purported legal contracts between the user and the online service provider (websites MMORPGs communication services etc.) despite the fact that users never get a chance to negotiate their contents and can often be entirely unaware of their existence.

Using a TOS online service providers can dictate their legal relationship with users through private contracts rather than rely on the law as written. In the unregulated and unpredictable world of the Internet such arrangements often provide the necessary ground rules for how various online services should be used.

Yet TOS agreements also raise a number of concerns for the consumer as they can be a vehicle for abuse by online service providers. For starters TOS provisions are usually written by the service providers themselves. As a result they tend to end up being one-sided in the service provider's favor and are often designed to be beyond any judicial scrutiny. Even more importantly most users never even bother to read let alone understand these agreements filled as they are with confusing legalese.

The time has come to shed light on what these Terms of Service agreements actually say and what it means to users. In conjunction with our TOSBack project EFF is working to make the contents of these TOS more transparent for the average user.

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