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ToS;DR

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

ToS;DR is a user rights initiative that breaks down good and bad points about the terms of service (ToS) and privacy policies for prominent websites and gives them an overall rating from Class A (very good) to Class E  (very bad). The initiative provides information through its own site and also provides a browser add-on.

ToS;DR stands for “Terms of service; didn’t read,” a variation on TL;DR (too long; didn’t read), an abbreviation people use to acknowledge that they haven’t read a particular piece of content in its entirety. The ToS;DR initiative formed as a means of informing users about the significant details of the terms of popular sites, which may be included in ToS but are often buried in excessively long documents.

In addition to the Class rating, ToS;DR lists relevant details of ToS for various sites with icons: thumbs-up and thumbs-down to indicate good and bad points, respectively; an asterisk to indicate something that should be noted and a red X to indicate something that may be bad enough to make users avoid the service.

As of September 2018, GitHub, for example, was rated Class B. The site gets a thumbs-up for providing ToS archives so users can see changes in terms and another thumbs-up for allowing pseudonyms. There’s a thumbs-down for reserving the right to suspend users and delete their data for any reason and at any time. An asterisk indicates the use of cookies.

At the same point in time, Google received a Class D rating. Thumbs-down include the following details of its ToS: Google may collect user device fingerprints; the company can reuse people’s content in its services, and it can also share user information with third parties. Google gets a thumbs-up for providing partial archives of its ToS.

Facebook had not been rated by that date but received a thumbs-up for specifying that users maintain ownership of their data. Thumbs-down items included: Facebook tracks users on other services, and also employs tracking pixels in its communications to users. The service received the red X icon for actually retaining data that had supposedly been deleted.

This was last updated in September 2018

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