Providing Plain English Version Of API Terms of Service

I read your Terms of Service is one of the biggest lies on the Internet. We agree to terms of service for each and every service we use online, without ever reading and understanding exactly what we are agreeing to.

This is one of the most damaging aspects of online life, as through this process we are giving away our rights, ownership of our data and allowing for our privacy to be compromised each and every day. While not all services are abusing this, there are many online services that use this to their advantage, in an effort to maximize the amount of value they extract from their platform and end users.

Service providers have to go further in educating users about the terms of service they are agreeing to. There is a great example of this in action, via an article in NextWeb called “now THIS is how to write your startup’s Terms of Service”. The post showcases how real-time sharing platform Heello has provided plain english descriptions, next to each “legaleze” paragraph in their terms of service.

This is nothing new. You see it with other providers like Tumblr. But I think it is a very simple enhancement to API terms of service that can have a huge effect, and begin leading us in a more healthy direction when it comes to educating end-users about the TOS they are bound to. While companies need the protection of a legal terms of service, there is no reason you can't provide your end users with a translated, plain english version.  It doesn't take much work, and really sets you apart from other API service providers.

Do you know of any other examples of online services going above and beyond to help educate end users about terms of service?