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Add This New Site To Your Bookmarks: TOSBack

On June 4, 2009, the the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) launched TOSBack to help consumers understand and track the changes in the terms of service (TOS) at major Web sites. The list os current sites is small -- about 35 -- and includes well-known sites such as Facebook, Google, AT&T, and eBay.

What I like about TOSBack:

  • It begins to address a need to monitor companies' Web-site TOS documents, especially when they become consumer-unfriendly. Remember the Facebook TOS fiasco
  • It shows you how a site's TOS changes over time
  • It displays old and new TOS versions side-by-side with highlights so consumers can easily see the changes
  • It offers an RSS feed to alert consumers of changes

What I don't like about TOSBack:

  • Coverage does not include banks
  • The RSS feed is in its infancy. I'd like the capability to "mash-up" or select RSS feeds only for selected companies, not all of them.
  • Sites vary in their TOS complexity. Some TOS documents vary by country, by product or service, and/or by sub-site. (Consider: AT&T has about 17 different privacy policies for various prodcuts and services: general Web site, wireless, landline phone, DSL, behavioral advertising, etc.) It's unclear how TOSBack will accommodate this.
  • TOSBack performs a service which each company should be doing: make their TOS easy to read and to understand. I fear that TOSBack will remove the pressure off companies to take responsibility to make their TOS documents easier to read, easier to understand, and incorporate clear, conspicious opt-in mechanisms

Companies I'd like to see TOSBack monitor: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, Phorm, and all of the major banks.

Overall, TOSBack is a good first step in the right direction. I'd love to see consumers demand TOS-tracking features at the Web sites they visit and shop at.


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