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Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

Posted January 12, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: privacy social media

If you’ve been using the internet for longer than a few days or so, you’ve probably agreed to a handful of terms of service (TOS) agreements. (If you’re reading this as a registered CR4 user, I can think of at least one.) Some TOS agreements are legally binding contracts with potentially severe consequences, and though many are agreed to, very few are read either in whole or part.

The TOS became common with the growth of social media and e-commerce websites or services that deal with a user’s private, personal, or financial data. There are lots of logical reasons why they’re not read; I’ve tried to get through a few but as the last step of a website registration process my impatience typically gets the better of me and I click “Accept” without reading them. Many who have the patience to read a TOS get lost in the dense legalese and give up. This is especially problematic for children, who are likely to be using one or many social media services to communicate.

Jenny Alfia, a British privacy lawyer, recently translated Instagram’s 5,000+ word TOS into plain English to serve the younger population. The translation was released this month as part of the UK Children’s Commissioner’s Growing Up Digital report, which found that very few if any teens understood Instagram’s full TOS but signed up anyway. Here are a few gems from the rewritten TOS, all of which probably would’ve taken an entire page of legal code in the original:

“We might send you adverts connected to your interests which we are monitoring. You cannot stop us doing this and it will not always be obvious that it is an advert.”

“We can change or end Instagram, or stop you accessing Instagram at any time, for any reason and without letting you know in advance. We can also delete posts and other content randomly, without telling you, for any reason. If we do this, we will not be responsible for paying out any money and you won’t have any right to complain.”

“Although you are responsible for the information you put on Instagram, we may keep, use and share your personal information with companies connected with Instagram. This information includes your name, email address, school, where you live, pictures, phone number, your likes and dislikes, where you go, who your friends are, how often you use Instagram, and any other personal information we find such as your birthday or who you are chatting with, including in private messages (DMs).”

Many 12-15 year olds who had blindly agreed to the TOS questioned their use of direct messaging after reading the translated version, and one quit the service altogether. Of course, it goes without saying that most TOS agreements are some form of contract, and a straightforward contract weeds out the suckers, a situation often disadvantageous for the issuer.

As average consumers get wise to the use of their supposedly private data a number of services have sprung up to help. Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (a riff on tl;dr) classifies TOSs into five classes and provides users with simple thumbs up/down feature ratings. Class A agreements are best and typically allow users plenty of choice over the copyrights and their right to retain their data and painlessly leave the service. In contrast, the lower D and E classes tend to stockpile rights for the service provider, including the ability to change terms without notice and retain user copyrights without permission. YouTube seems to be the most well-known site with a poor Class D rating.

The vast majority of high schoolers I know use some form of social media (usually Snapchat, these days) for almost all communication, and I’d bet that very few understand the terms of service. As a member of the last generation to spend part of my teens without the internet, I don’t envy them.

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#1

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/12/2017 9:03 AM

I don't think anyone without a law degree understands most of these, and few people have the time or patience to read 50 pages of legalese on a telephone screen.

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/12/2017 11:40 PM

"I don't think anyone without a law degree understands most [any] of these,"

I don't think I've ever gotten past page 5 of any legal document other than a patent, without the assistance of a lawyer. You could replace that '5' with a '2', and it would still be pretty close to true. ... and that's reading a paper copy or on the computer screen. Put it on a telephone screen, and you can change it to '1'.

My attempted reading of virtually any legal document gives me an inkling of how a person with no technical/scientific background must feel when reading a technical/scientific document. It's not a pleasant feeling!

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#39
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 2:18 PM

I got concerned when I got to the paragraph about "First Born Child".

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#2

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/12/2017 12:35 PM

Most people don't use their real name and when personal information is required it's usually false, so what are we left with....just spam emails that go in the spam folder I only occasionally browse through....Nobody should ever give out their birthday and if you do make it false info...I use 1/1/1950, it gives a general idea of my age without divulging exact dates.....and remember security questions don't require correct answers, just that you remember what your answer was....I like to make mine as funny as possible....haha

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#3
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/12/2017 2:50 PM

Good advice!

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#10
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 8:34 AM

Yes...no real names, indeed. (Perhaps I should take my own advice re. my username....)

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#4

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/12/2017 11:17 PM

Some time ago I recall reading that The Communist Manifesto or Mein Kampf could be included in an End User License Agreement (EULA) or a TOS statement and be approved by the user!

Yay for legalese.

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#12
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 8:58 AM

Ooooh, how about adding both into the same TOS? Since they disagree on many key points (Mein Kampf is pretty heavily anti-communist in sections, while the Manifesto is obviously pro) you could claim that the user is in violation the moment they click 'agree.' That way you never even have to make software that works, since the install program would claim TOS violation right after the TOS acceptance screen and refuse to install the software.

Of course, such legal shenanigans would only clog up the courts and prove how untenable the current proliferation of 'unreadable' TOS clickthroughs are.

Someone should do this. Now.

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#34
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 10:48 AM

One word says it all about legalese. BORING and they say technical people are boring!

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#35
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 11:01 AM

Yes, but it is deliberately boring.

Till it's got you by the short & curlies!

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#6

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 2:53 AM

The last time I checked, you had to be an adult to sign a legally binding cell phone contract.

That being said, it is the adults responsibility to authorize applications for the children to use.

Being the adults responsibility, the adult needs to read the terms of service agreement.

The statement, " into plain English to serve the younger population " , carries no validity, as the child is not legally responsible for the cell contract.

In addition, dumbing down English, into plain english, does the children a disservice, as it sets the expectation that all forms of legal and non-legal largress will be rewritten for their convenience.

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#13
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 9:04 AM

"In addition, dumbing down English, into plain english, does the children a disservice, as it sets the expectation that all forms of legal and non-legal largress will be rewritten for their convenience."

Whereas, for adults, the legal language is purposefully obfuscated with archaic phrases and with 'trade lingo' translated into Latin, all for our maximum INconvenience. To actually understand what a legal document is saying, you need not only three different law dictionaries to translate the vore dies and ipso factos, but also a current subscription to two different law journals, to look up what the latest precedents are on the interpretation of certain concepts within the document.

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#16
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 9:34 AM

Right! That keeps more lawyers employed, including the ones that write the books and journals.

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#18
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 11:59 AM

You just need your robot lawyer to give a pass, nopass(danger danger) ruling on the document....

Small in stature yet big in brain, your robot lawyer is updated constantly....

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#7

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 3:11 AM

Generally I do not read the terms and Conditions. So is the case with majority of the people.

My friend's experience was frustrating one - when the problem was relating to a flight ticket by air lines. The printing is so small and you need a lense to magnify and read

When the problem arise - air line declined to consider his representation - under the guise Terms and Conditions and consumer Forum went in favour of the air line. This sort is amounting to Ignorance of law is not an excuse.

In reality it is difficult. For example, the Housing Loan Application contains 16 pages printed in small letters and the loanee has to sign each page. I have seen people blindly signing.

DHAYANANDHAN.S

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#15
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 9:16 AM

"In reality it is difficult. For example, the Housing Loan Application contains 16 pages printed in small letters and the loanee has to sign each page. I have seen people blindly signing."

Perhaps we need a global 'counter-revolution' against the huge documents that are impossible to read. If We, the People of the World, all agreed that when faced with a huge multi-page document to sign in front of a representative for the Other Side of the agreement, we stop and read EVERY SINGLE PAGE, especially the ones where we have to sign/initial every page. Make the signing take as long as it took to craft the document, and ask questions about things that are confusing, such as legal phrases or Latin words thrown into key locations in sentences. Show these lawyers/bankers/corporate lackeys that we don't CARE if they have three other appointments to get to, we're not signing until we UNDERSTAND what it is that we're signing. And if they say things like "that section's not important" or "you don't need to worry about that," ask them to explain WHY an 'unimportant' paragraph is padding out an already overlarge document.

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#17
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 9:51 AM

Perhaps we need a global 'counter-revolution' against the huge documents that are impossible to read.

First we need a revolution against the reason such documents are necessary - abuse of the right to sue. Get rid of the myriads of "on the fringe of rationality" law suits first and watch the documents reduce in a couple of decades.

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#19
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 3:40 PM

Or we could just mandate illiteracy, then it will no longer be needed to read and accept ToS, just do go in through the same door as the other sheeple.

Here's the church, and here's the steeple, look out, it's noon, here come all the sheeple.

I can envision a day when people numbly accept ToS that requires delivery of their first-born to the corporation on their sixth birthday, only to be sacrificed to the volcano god.

On the other hand, it would be nice if CR4 ToS included terms that empowered the deletion of accounts where there is a consistently abusive, trolling, stalking, bullying, or primarily annoying contrary behavior pattern by a member. Of course, all these practices by gurus past the first year, when counter-attacking moronic trolls should be encouraged, and rewarded. LOL And stop shouting when laughing or rolling on the floor laughing!

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#8

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 6:12 AM

It does not matter how YOU read the T&C's as it is down to interpretation and very cleverly, without punctuation, (comma's), there is no chance in hell that the ordinary Joe would win any legal battle on T&C's.

And legally, any contract is negotiable and if you negotiate the T&C's you will end up without any services. T&C's are simply Take it or Leave it. The only option being, take it or leave it.

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#9

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 7:45 AM

I'm old school and don't do much of anything with social media, see it as a huge waste of time, so I don't worry about the SocMed ones. I do not have much of an internet profile to kept track of, at least compared to the average person.

As a sub-category, the TOS agreements for companies that offer prototyping services via the internet can be really bad with respect to IP rights. I always tell clients to watch out for those if they are shopping for prototype fab. Article at http://thelimitedmonopoly.com/innovation/invention-prototyping-via-the-internet-the-tos-agreement-landmine/ if interested.

jhammond

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#11
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 8:37 AM

I've become pretty disillusioned with social media to the point that I wish I'd never signed on--it's almost addictive at times.

PS--I grew up in Rochester...lovely place. Fairport, actually.

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#14
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 9:05 AM

Well now the CIA, FBI, NSA, FIFA, BBC, CNN, RT, Buzzfeed know where to look for Mr. Jonathan Fuller, aka, the notorious 1999 Rochester Fairport, criminal master mind who toppled the ice cream cake.

Your secret is safe with CR4. By the way, your garden looks nice!

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#27
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 11:52 PM

Every page you visit that has a Facebook button on it tells Facebook you visited that page without your even being a member of Facebook. Later, if you change your mind about joining and sign up to Facebook, they know all kinds of things about you, except that now they can put a name on it - yours - or whatever name you choose. They know it's you because they know about your browser, your MAC address, what sort of computer and operating system you use - all sorts of identifying information where, although each piece by itself may not be able to identify you, the aggregate is almost guaranteed to fingerprint you uniquely. Suddenly this 'aggregate' joins Facebook and they match-up what the aggregate looked at and when. You may not be a member of Facebook, but they already have quite a database on you, and on me, and on everyone else here who has ever visited a page containing a Facebook button, including those who visit this forum. It's not just a button. That's only the part you can see.

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#29
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 2:04 AM

"I do not have much of an internet profile to kept track of, at least compared to the average person."

http://gizmodo.com/all-of-the-creepy-things-facebook-knows-about-you-1785510980

And this is what just Facebook tracks.

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#20

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 3:54 PM

In general, I also do not read EULAs. But I do insist on clicking thru them screen by screen just in case someone is counting & observing how long it takes. Once in a while I scan part of it.

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#21

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 4:09 PM

Perhaps the question skirted here is, 'why do we actually accept these agreements and stupidly sign them as agreed?' Are we so irresponsible for our lives and still complain about it? Is it not time to dismiss the powers companies have over us? Companies have trained us quite well to be a flock of accepting sheep.

Lucky for me I am a professional shepherd, so I shall get the flock out of here.

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#22
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 4:12 PM

Amen to that last comment, 'tis Friday, almost time to make like a cow patty, and hit the trail.

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#23
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 4:20 PM

Did you agree to the terms and conditions before leaving or have you thrown caution to the wind?

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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 4:38 PM

I am not sure that was what was being thrown into the wind, but so far, it has not come back to hit me in the face, thus, so far, so good.

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#25

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 11:02 PM

I scroll through them, mainly looking for stuff like how many computers I can install software on, etc. I remember about 15 years ago or so, one company inserted a 'bonus' sentence in the middle of the legalese telling customers to contact the vendor with a code number or some such thing, and they would receive a substantial cash reward for actually reading the EULA. I've never seen anything like this myself.

I generally avoid social media like the plague. I really like being able to 'google' myself and find almost nothing. Privacy is something to be cherished and a lot of younger people will learn this the hard way.

When it comes to agreeing to these Terms of Service Agreements, I suppose we can use the Nancy Pelosi strategy of 'pass the bill so we can find out what's in it."

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#26

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/13/2017 11:49 PM

The big printh giveth, and the small printh taketh away.

Anything you put out on the interweb is there forever, and there's nothing you can do about it. Anybody and everybody can use it any way they want. A social media site can delete it, if they see fit, for whatever reason they want, but it's too late, it's out there for good. If you post a photo, or anything else, they own it. You have no legal recourse, because you signed that away.

It will take them 48 pages to tell you this, but that's what the TOS says.

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#28

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 12:26 AM

Most responses outline how ToS agreements limit (or deny) the rights of users. My experience has been that service providers only need to do that to ABUSERS, but cannot identify that group in advance. Therefore we all suffer the legalese.

I'm even forgiving of the legalese, which closely defines the intent of the ToS agreement in order to pre-negate most of the arguments that irrational, abusive or criminal users would throw up in any later conflict.

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#30

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 3:09 AM

My interest is 'standard' Non Disclosure Agreements -

"Without limitation, we shall exclusively own all now known or hereafter existing rights to the suggestions of every kind and nature throughout the Universe and shall be entitled to unrestricted use of the comments for any purpose whatsoever, commercial or otherwise without compensation to the provider of the suggestions” reads one, believe it or not.

Would not be surprised to hear that some courts had actually tried to uphold the above -

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#31

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 3:23 AM

On the flip-side we have the WTFPL.

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#36
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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 1:48 PM

I prefer the Beerware License model.

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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 1:55 PM

Absolutely!

-----

Point of Etiquette: if the license-holder has a Southern Cross tat and wears a mullet, make sure you offer him/her/it (it's sometimes hard to them apart) a VB (Victoria Bitter). Even better, a goon bag.

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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/17/2017 4:11 PM

"Point of Etiquette: if the license-holder has a Southern Cross tat and wears a mullet, make sure you offer him/her/it (it's sometimes hard to them apart) a VB (Victoria Bitter). Even better, a goon bag."

Considering many Americans may not be able to tell a VB from a Goon Bag from a can of Fosters (And I know Fosters is considered the 'so bad we'll foist in on those Americans who think Miller and Coors are beers' type of beer). Would it be polite to offer to take him/her/it to a local reputable pub and allow him to select his/her/its choice from the proprietor's fine selection?

(To be honest, I'm AFRAID to ask what a 'goon bag' is.)

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Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/17/2017 4:58 PM

goon bag Cheap wine that comes in a box and leaves the consumer with an extreme headache the next day. Convenient because the remains of the vessel can be inflated for use as a pillow after consumption. I've only got $8 so I guess I'll be drinking a goon bag tonight. by Biffro Jones March 20, 2004 (copied without permission from Urban Dictionary). If you have to have a mullet to drink it, don't do it! According to the propaganda, no one on this forum has earned the right (by sweat of the brow) to a Victoria Bitter this day. So then gents, back on your heads, break time is over!

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#40
In reply to #36

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/17/2017 10:50 AM

Amen to that!

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#32

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 6:03 AM

Like most / all the rest of us I have just occasionally tried to plough through one or 2 of these horrible devices; and like just about everyone else I have given up.

The answer, as I see it, is for some clever lawyer type, employed by a consumer organisation or the like, to come up with a "standard" version, which can then be used by all those bona fide companies who just want to trade - it would be allowable to add extra clauses (but limited in length and legalise); we the public could then sign up happily to the agreement, knowing that both parties are properly protected, or "go elsewhere" ie refuse the service on a much more reasoned basis.

sorry to not post amusing or cynical comments, but I've got cynical about cynisysm!

lets have more discussion on this interesting topic and maybe make CR4 the place that started the anti TOS revolution. Happy Newish Year, Phil

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#33
In reply to #32

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 7:26 AM

I suppose the question to ask is if the TOS is mostly governed by US laws ad not locws to a country, just how binding is the US legal clause on other countries. I recall the US trying to extradite a UK lad for hacking and they lost.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_McKinnon

and the opposite;

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/nov/14/amber-rudd-approves-lauri-love-extradition-to-us-on-hacking-charges

The laws of the US are not laws in other countries but merely a bully tactic to other governments and I recall that blackmail is still illegal.

So when Google moves to London does US laws and terminology still apply or will the TOS need to change to suit the UK? The law of the land applies. Obviously, the law is the law, (yes I guess), however, if I commit a crime, any crime, in the UK, France, Belgium, Africa, I cannot be prosecuted under US laws, so why does the US have any right to apply their laws in another country if the offence was not committed in their country. Technically the information may have come from another country, but the perpetrator is in another.

Does the US/UK/Germany abide by Russian TOS when they hack people or does Russia/China/Germany abide by US TOS when they hack them?

It is only about control of others and the 'laws, TOS' are there to scare folks to be controlled.

And, how do they TOS apply in all this fake news that is going on? Are they going to sue the news like BBC, CNN, BuzzF, CIA, FBI etc,. for breech of the TOS? I guess they are on the hunt for some school kids who are having a ball, it is easier and they wont have a fight from.

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#37

Re: Anyone Actually Reading Terms of Service Agreements? Anyone???

01/14/2017 1:54 PM
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