Terms of Disservice: A Critique of Terms of Service Agreements Essay

Terms of Disservice: A Critique of Terms of Service Agreements Essay

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Do you know what you’re giving away when you sign up for websites? Most internet users blindly accept Terms of Service (TOS) agreements when they create accounts. TOS agreements spell out the rules users must obey in order to use a web service. Additionally, important information regarding the rights of users and of the company is included in these TOS agreements. Such agreements are unavoidable by internet users; this unavoidability is precisely why these agreements are potentially dangerous to the rights of internet users. The implementation, language, and length of TOS agreements make them morally unacceptable.
There are very few ways that TOS agreements are implemented. Commonly, users must check a checkbox located at the bottom of an account creation form, which affirms that they accept the TOS. In addition, “Terms of Service” or a similar phrase is often hyperlinked to the actual text. In another implementation, a short sentence explains that by clicking on the button to submit the form, the user agrees to the TOS. Both implementations are highly ineffective due to their passive nature. There is nothing to compel a user to read the actual text. Users just have to check the checkbox and/or submit the form in order to get on with internet activities. Why waste time reading a legal document when one could be doing something else? Indeed, most people just want to get on with what they were doing instead of reading the TOS. Passive implementations of TOS agreements are not urging users to read the text.
The language of TOS agreements may also discourage users from reading them. Unsurprisingly, TOS agreements, as legal documents, are often laden with legalese. In a study that analyzed 30 different TOS agreements, there were many...


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...o read the TOS, legalese and low readability are obstructions to comprehension. Additionally, the length of TOS agreements may also contribute to failures of comprehension by mental fatigue or may discourage users from reading them in their entirety. If users knowingly forfeit certain rights in exchange for using a service, no moral issue would arise. Finally, it should be up to companies rather than the users to change because companies have the resources to change far quicker than users. Changes need to happen to TOS agreements: only then would you be expected to understand completely what you’re giving away when you sign up for a website.


Works Cited

Fiesler, Casey, and Amy Bruckman. "Copyright Terms in Online Creative Communities." Proc. of CHI 2014, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, ON. Association for Computing Machinery, n.d. PDF file. 24 Apr. 2014.

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