The Machine Readable Questions We Should Ask Of Terms Of Service

I’ve been following the work of Terms of Service Didn’t Read for some time now. In my opinion this work is some of the most important legal work out there right now, which is guiding all of our activity not just online, but increasingly in our offline worlds. If you aren't familiar with Terms of Service Didn’t Read, I think their slogan sums it up well:

“I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the web. We aim to fix that.

More clarity and balance in the terms of service that online services employ is critical to the future of society and the web, this single checkbox is deciding our fate, whether you realize it or not. One of the projects I’m working on in coming months, is forking and extending the Terms of Service Didn't Read work into the world of APIs.

While I was aware that the Terms of Service Didn’t Read work is openly licensed, I wasn't aware of the degree of openness, until I started digging through their Github account and found machine readable inventory of the questions they ask of TOS. This is huge!

To achieve their rating of each online service, TOS Didn't Read asks questions of each service providers TOS. This list of questions is critical to making sense of the complex legalese that TOS contain, allowing for them to derive a rating for each service, and provide a list of plain english description of what you face when signing up for each online service.

In coming months, I will be working on a forked version of TOS Didn't Read, applying their machine readable questions specifically to APIs, and hopefully contributing cycles to the central TOS Didn’t Read. My intention is to make machine readable API definitions for this critical building block of the API economy.