So You Didn't Read a Site's Terms of Service... Now What?

5 years ago

We are quickly approaching the day when there will be more social media sites than people to use them. Most people hold accounts at numerous social media sites at the same time, quickly adding themselves when they notice the next hot thing popping up in the online world.  Of course, few people take the time to read the Terms of Service (TOS) as they add themselves to site after site.  A new website aims to help social media users navigate which sites work best with their needs and wants by examining their TOS.  And since they know us so well, the site is called Terms of Service, Didn't Read.

We all have rules for ourselves online -- whether or not we post pictures of our kids, use real names, or give out personal information.  But what few people do is make sure the sites they're using fit within their boundaries.  When I wrote about TOS (here, here, and here), I was a little surprised by how many people said they hadn't known these things about certain sites.  Alternately, I found that while we'd know a good social media site if we saw it, we didn't have a lot of ideas on what should go into a TOS to make a good relationship between site creator and site user.

 Photo Credit: Terms and Conditions via Shutterstock.

Terms of Service, Didn't Read gives each site a rating from Class A (very good) to Class E (you might want to avoid or tailor your usage).  You can read the full terms of service on the site, check out the pros and cons, and then see if you agree or disagree with the grade they give each site.  Receiving a bad grade does not necessarily mean that the site should be avoided; rather, the site should be used mindfully, knowing full well the rules surrounding your information or usage.

Possibly most eye-opening is their listing of which sites allow you to delete an account -- something one should know ahead of time before starting an account -- so it's also a site to bookmark and check before you sign up for the next big thing.

Most sites do not have a final grade yet, not just due to the lack of manpower reviewing all the TOS, but also possibly due to the fact that TOS change on a regular basis.  But the site is still extremely helpful in quickly reviewing the TOS of various sites and making sure the sites themselves are within your comfort zone of what you like to post online.

Be honest -- how deeply do you read the TOS before agreeing to it: a careful read, a quick glance, or not at all?  Any surprises about your favourite sites when you clicked over to check out their TOS grade?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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