Terms à la carte

I wound up having to agree to yet another Terms of Service for something I’ve already agreed to previously, because the bloody things change every five minutes. Fears of the South Park CentiPad notwithstanding, I still tend to skim the things, especially since the options are binary. Either you agree to the ToS, or you go on your merry way. Even when those ToS contain inane ass-covering like Yahoo! Messenger’s:

YOU MAY NOT and will not allow any third party to:

[…]

Use the Service to operate nuclear facilities, life support, or other mission critical application where human life or property may be at stake.

A quick google on “Use the Service to operate nuclear facilities” makes it clear Yahoo! isn’t alone in that. Apparently, I’m not the only one with South Park level fears of misuse. Even better, that isn’t even you agreeing to forego using YIM to run your nuclear facility. It’s you explicitly agreeing not to let anyone else do that, either. Exciting to know that my ability to goof off online comes with some kind of group obligation to police anyone else I meet there.

In any event, I did start wondering what might happen if services and developers allowed for modular Terms of Service, tied to specific functionality. With increasing privacy concerns, I could see, for example, people opting out of some of the information gathering elements. With iTunes, for example, I might want something that lets me organize my ripped music and DVDs, but I may NOT want to throw information about my media back and forth to the Gracenote service.

It’s all fairly impotent speculation, of course. At this point, everyone has a ToS so long as to impede the actual reading of same. And so long as the options are binary, most people are likely to just hit “Accept.” Giving consumers more options reduces the power of the provider, and I can’t imagine that’s anywhere in the offing.

Still, it would probably make for some interesting news if someone did come up with a digestible, modular ToS that gave some measure of control back to the user.

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One thought on “Terms à la carte

  1. Pingback: Give It up to Have More? | Process Wonk

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