When you sign-up at a website or install a piece of software, you are often asked if you 'accept the terms-of-service.' This is a really long document full of legalese. Most people don't even bother to read it and just click the accept button. Even yours truly pretty much just skims through these parts. However, when you agree to use a site's service, you are entering into an agreement with them. So, the least you should do is find up exactly what you're signing up for and how your personal information will be used.
Even those who read the terms and conditions during sign-up should be aware that website terms-of-service can change at any time. Even website policies often change. The problem is, most people don't have time to visit 10 or 15 sites regularly and read through terms-of service agreements and website policies.
Thankfully, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group is keeping track of some of these changes. You can see these changes by visiting TOSBack, a site dedicated to terms-of-service tracking. The aim of the site is to show how these agreements change over time.
TOSBack is currently monitoring agreements for 58 popular websites. These include social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter, user-content run sites like Flickr and YouTube, as well as online shopping giants Amazon and Ebay among other sites.
Updates are posted on the home page, as and when a policy changes. Clicking on a specific link opens up a page with the agreement text. Changes to the agreement are highlighted so that you don't have to spend time searching for additions and deletions.
A site like TOSBack provides an important service. User agreements are the basis of a trustworthy relationship with a service provider. However, they are often forgotten until a problem with the site arises and then people scramble to read website policies. With TOSBack, a user can stay in touch with policy changes and quickly recognize anything he is not comfortable with.
Do you read user agreements and other policies when you sign-up with a service? Have you heard of TOSBack before? What do you think of this tracking mechanism? Let me know in the comments.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.