Terms of Service — Should you read them?
I decided to explore Facebook’s ToS (Terms of service) for this weeks module and found some interesting notes throughout my read. What I ended up finding more fascinating was the question itself “Should you read the ToS?”. Quite frankly, I do not have an answer to this, as every person is subjected to there own terms and can choose to read so on there own behalf. However I do have a proposition or at least an idea that may help future ToS with other companies.
The thing is, ToS are boring and dull, companies build them this way to make you not wanna read them and that’s a major problem. When I was exploring Facebook’s ToS I have to say compared to some other companies its laid out quite nicely. Its quite small for how big Facebook is, which is great, but the flaws are very noticeable. As you progress reading the terms you come to notice that every paragraph will direct you to another pages terms, thus essentially restarting what you were just reading. If you were to pile up all the different pages it ends up becoming like the rest of the companies ToS, one giant drawn out legislation on what you can or cannot do. Boring…
Facebook does the job of neatly dividing up each section of its ToS but has lots of mixed wording, which of course is what gets you. In #2 of Sharing Your Content and Information Facebook says
“ You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook…”
But just two sentences later they say
“ For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License).”
Essentially this means your photos and videos are theirs to do what they want with so long as you have a Facebook account and your privacy settings are unchanged. Now…they do give you the option of changing your privacy settings so things like this don’t happen, but information like this is never stated when you first register for a Facebook account. Which is sad, because this is the information that needs to be told to the public on sign-up. Luckily a good portion of today's youth have been educated on such matters, and have either changed there settings or understand the consequences. But this is just 1 important paragraph among the 100’s within the ToS, who would read all of them?
There needs to be an understanding between the everyday people and the important laws within any online company. Whether it be a social network, a game company or just some plain old forum. When signing up you should be prompted with a ToS, but one that is shortened to only display key bullet pointed information without all the funky law abiding wording. If said customer would like to dive further into the information they can, similarly to how Facebook directs you to different pages. At these pages is where you can hit said user with the wall of of text and the correct law terminology.
Now you might argue something like…
“What company would do that when they could hide within there high ToS walls, and get away with whatever they want?”
And the answer to that would be none, or at least very few, but this is where the understanding needs to come in. We don’t live in the early 2000’s no more where the internet was still new and evolving, and low life companies like Napster could run around copyrighting everything they see. We are at the stage now where we have conquered the internet. Such things like the digital divide are still present but not at all within North America. Every single person uses the internet in this day and age, and that alone should be a clear enough reason to formulate easy internet rules and legislation's. You don’t think Mark Zuckerberg or even the legal team themselves that wrote the ToS use Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Reddit, Gmail, Soundcloud or play any games? Of course they do. Then why hide behind rules when they themselves have to go through the same thing with any other online website. It doesn’t make any sense… The only way to solve this is through a social unity and simplicity. No more having to read between the lines, or diving deep into a rabbit hole. Upfront clear cut information upon sign-up/registration. It’s not hard people…so lets do it.