Terms of service have been front and center for a few weeks now.
Now today, I found this item warning against migrating Delicious bookmarks to AVOS, who purchased the service from Yahoo last week.
Well, they’re written by lawyers for other lawyers really, not for the layperson, and therefore, pretty much every terms of service I’ve attempted to read is mindbogglingly confusing and ambiguous. Frankly, if you read the terms for everything, you’d probably reject more than approve, given the gray areas.
In the case of free software and services, you could argue something-for-nothing, i.e. by getting something free, you’re kind of agreeing to some level of marketing or other uncomfortable use of your data. Facebook falls into this area.
However, for paid services like smartphones, it’s not as clear cut, which says a lot considering how murky the free services can get.
So, are users who have agreed to terms simply Darwinian casualties who should be held to the terms to which they agreed, as lampooned in a recent and timely episode of South Park? Or should companies be held responsible for their confusing legalese?
Again, not likely to be a clear-cut answer.
It would be nice to see simplified terms of service rolled out, similar to what Twitter is doing with its OAuth dialog. Of course that takes effort and likely wouldn’t be legally defensible, so users would still have to agree to the official terms in all their glory.
Not an easy problem to solve, but one that I’m sure will continue to beg to be solved.