Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Better Way To Handle Terms Of Service Agreements

Attorney Valerie Danin, published a nice MailChimp blog post today. I appreciated the tone and intent, I really did.
"Legalese is our habit and our security blanket. Now, bad habits must be broken, so just because wherefores, hereunders, represents, and shalls all run from my keyboard like LOL, ttyl, and OMG flow for others doesn’t mean I should use them."
What she is saying is that she tried her best to use regular, readable English when writing the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, Acceptable Use Policy, API Use Policy, and Copyright Policy. She is distressed, she writes,  that so few people actually read them, and so decided to make them more readable.

As laudable as that is, I'm still not going to read them for two simple reasons: 1) No matter how readable they are made, their sheer length discourages me from reading them.  2) The number of such policies in force at any given time is utterly astounding. I wonder how many sets of terms, conditions, policies et al etc etc I have supposedly "read and understand" are in force right this very moment. 100? 200? 400? I have no idea. Suppose I were to undertake to read and understand all such policies for every product I use and then copy them to a folder so I would have an inventory of every such contract I've agreed to! It's not impossible, but it's a practical impossibility.

Currently,  when we sign off on a company's terms and conditions, we are presented with two choices such as: A) I do not agree. (This response invariably kicks us out of the program or service) and B) I have read, understand and agree to the terms (Which is a lie but which allows us to use the program or service.)

I propose a third option:

"I have not read the terms, conditions or policies but I agree to be bound by them. Let's face it, your program or service is not such a big deal in my life that I care that much either way. Worst that happens is, you kick me off and delete my account. I can live with that."

Problem solved. Complete accountability and honesty, all in one time saving package. You're welcome.