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Terms of Service Tracker keeps companies from slipping one past you

Docracy Terms of Service Tracker

So here’s the deal: Every website, social network, and Internet-connected service you use has a terms of service and privacy policy, contracts between you and the company that lay out the ground rules. That you likely already knew.

What you may not be aware of – probably because you are like every other normal person and don’t waste precious hours of your life digging through lawyer-speak – is that most of these terms include a provision which says, basically, that the company can change the terms anytime it likes. Some promise to let you know when this happens; most don’t. The problem with this is, as we saw with the recent kerfuffle over Instagram’s terms alteration, changes can potentially lead to users getting screwed over – often without us even knowing it.

That could become a thing of the past thanks to a new tool from Docracy, a startup that aims to “to provide resources that take the fear and mystery out of legal agreements,” called the Terms of Service Tracker.

Launched last month, Docracy’s ToS Tracker collects the terms of services and privacy polices of websites, then provides “before and after” versions to show you exactly what has changed. The tool currently has the site governance documents of more than 950 websites, with the most recently changed documents appearing at the top of the list.

As first reported by The Verge, ToS Tracker works by “scraping” the terms of service and privacy policy pages similar to the way Google analyzes websites for Search. New versions are then compared to the old versions, and annotations are made public for all to see.

Ebay privacy changes

ToS Tracker picks up on even the smallest of changes. For instance, Comcast recently removed a forward slash from the URL of its privacy policy – not exactly a change most people would care about, but it’s there nonetheless. Of course, major changes are viewable, as well. Ebay, for example, recently posted changes to both its privacy policy and user agreement, which take effect on March 26. Not only does ToS Tracker tell you that these changes are being made, but it tells you exactly what the changes are – an key feature of which we Web users should take advantage.

Fact is, most of the changes made to terms of services and privacy polices are mundane – nothing to get upset about. But given than we are all bound by an increasing number of these contracts, services like ToS Tracker are more helpful now than ever. So good luck, companies. We’ve got our eyes on you.

Image via RAGMA IMAGES/Shutterstock

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