During our research, we have found a growing number of other projects with similar goals.
In 2012 we co-founded the OpenNotice group in order to bring all of these projects together.
CommonTerms tries to address the "biggest lie" problem, ie. the fact that we lie and say we have read the terms when in fact we have not.
This page contains a list of related projects, divided into four sections:
Please note that some projects, such as our own, fall into more than one of the above categories.
Also please note that some of them are no longer active. We chose to list them anyway, since many of them can still
provide inspiration and teach some important lessons.
If common terms are standardized, either one by one or in packages, they can be recognized.
Users may need to learn about important standards once, but they won't need to read every clause for every new consent.
Often, but not always, standard terms come with icons, so they can be recognized at a glance.
Bonus: Standardized terms, more often than non-standard terms, are reasonably balanced, protecting both parties.
The following projects propose standardization of terms:
Of course, CC is the most brightly shining star in this area, even if they only do terms related to copyright licensing. Last known activity: 2015
Terms of Service - Human Rights project
Center for Technology and Society at Fundação Getúlio Vargas Law School, Rio de Janeiro
Applied law research project analyzing how online platforms are protecting human rights (privacy, freedom of expression and due process).
The Project reviews the ToS of initially 100 platforms. Will publish results as well as methodology.
Contacts: Nicolo Zingales and Konstantinos Stylianou. Last known activity: 2015
Dynamic Coalition on Platform Responsibility - DCPR
Initiative within the UN IGF aiming to establish a global baseline protection for Human Rights in online platforms. Last known activity: 2014
Company intending to adopt the OSS model to legal documents: Provide the legal code (CC licensed contract document templates) for free but selling consulting. Last known activity: January 2010. Closed, June 2012.
Domain pointing to Contractual.ly in february 2015.
Winner of a Techcrunch hackathon, May 2011, this startup aims to become a "GitHub for legal documents".
By open sourcing legal documents, highlighting changes and tracking how many times each document has been re-used,
Docracy could help signatories in making the decision whether to trust a document or not.
Late 2012/Early 2013, Docracy also started tracking/detecting changes to popular sites' TOS/PP documents, becoming a more modern version of TOSback.
Delegate the reading of terms
Better than never reading would be to delegate the reading and evaluation of terms to somebody else
(man, machine or collective) or even to yourself (at some point in time when you are able).
The following projects propose ways to delegate or defer reading:
Terms of Service; Didn't Read
This project headed by Hugo Roy is using crowdsourcing to grade (A-F) website policies and create subjective summaries of their contents.
Grades and summaries are stored on Github and can be accessed by e.g. browser plug-ins when you visit a website.
TOS;DR run a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2012 and got a lot of positive media coverage!
Meaningful Consent Project
Research project led by University of Southampton exploring consent in a number of ways.
Trying to answer questions such as "What is meaningful consent?", "When Does consent matter?" and
"What can consent in another domain teach us about consent in a digital world?".
Also exploring Semi-autonomous consent agents, a constructive idea for solving the biggest lie problem by
dividing the consent task into its parts and adressing each of them separately. Instead of reading the terms,
you could spend time up-front creating preferences that a software agent can use on your
behalf when you confront a consent request.
Last known activity: 2015
Automated analysis of Terms of Service documents that you upload to their server. Last known activity: October 2014
EFF project tracking changes to TOS documents for popular online services.
From the VRM project (Vendor Relationship Management, headed by Doc Searls) comes the EmanciTerm proposal: Users should bring their own set of terms, to be automatically matched with those of service providers.
Providing an app that helps you understand and manage online Terms and Conditions by
- summarizing terms
- tracking and notifying you of changes to terms
- indicating if a change is good or bad for you
Initiative by Sebastian Lemery to scrape TOS documents, provide easier-to-read versions, and track changes. Started May 2012.
Youluh will be able to automatically analyze EULA documents, to see if they contain clauses that you usually agree to, clauses that you do not agree to, or clauses you haven't seen before, to make it easier for you to decide whether to accept or not! Started June 2012.
Trust-e commercially provides a certification (and corresponding trust mark) for websites whose Privacy policies
adhere to some basic quality requirements defined by Trust-e.
Standardize presentation of terms
If terms are presented in a standardized way, they are much easier to scan, read and understand.
Hopefully, the presentation format is not only standardized, but also usable and accessible.
The following projects propose standardization of the presentation terms:
Researchers from by CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory (CUPS) at Carnegie Mellon University proposed and evaluated a standardized table format for the presentation of privacy information, inspired by “Nutrition labels”.
Their research papers provide many valuable insights.
See an example! Last known activity: 2010
Started by Aza Raskin of Mozilla, this project did a great job drafting icons to describe a select set of
privacy parameters and began dealing with the myriad of challenges involved, but did not solve all of them.
Some of the icons later have been picked up by Disconnect.me and possibly others.
Last known activity: December 2010.
I agree to
Re-design of Apple iTunes Terms of Service by Gregg Bernstein, providing great inspiration for anybody trying to simplify and
make online contracts more accessible. Last known activity: September 2011.
The gaming company has produced a gamification of their privacy policies.
Draft privacy icons and a simple tool to generate html. Nice contribution by a group of Yale students, developing the Mozilla proposal a bit further.
Last known activity: May 2012
Kickstarter proposal started April 2012 by Joe Andrieu of the Kantara initiative.
Drafted a tabular terms summary format, inspired by CUPS Privacy Label project just like CommonTerms.
Nice video, too. Crowdfunding didn't reach limit on time, but attracted some supporters.
Italian company offering a simple tool to create easy-to-understand Privacy policies. Last known activity: February 2013
Among many other privacy related tools and services, PrivacyChoice offers a tool - Policymaker - which can be used to
Disconnect.me Privacy Icons
Started september 2011 by Tyler Baird. Producing easy-to-read hand-made Privacy Policies. Clear and nice graphics. Crowdfunding didn't reach limit.
Report from a project by students at the UC Berkely School of Information in 2009. Drafted icons describing how user's data is being collected and shared.
Matthias Mehldau created a large set of icons answering the questions "What data is collected", "How is my data handled", "For what purpose" and "For how long". Last known activity: 2007
European privacy open space
EU project proposed the idea of cc-like icons but no icons as far as I know. Last known activity: 2009
Proposed a rather extensive set of icons to summarize common terms found in End User License Agreements (EULAs). Last known activity: 2006
Privacy Icons (for email)
This project has proposed a set of icons for email privacy. Ryan Calo, Max Senges and a few others are mentioned on the project website.
Last known activity: November 2011.
Draft icons by Aaron Helton described for example who owns User Generated Content: User, provider company or shared ownership.
Last known activity: February 2009
Among other things, Open Digital proposed a nice set of icons to communicate what license a user has put on her personal data.
Unfortunately, the project was suspended in april 2012.
Internet Governance Forum
In 2006, Mary Rundle from Harvard University gave a presentation at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting, proposing a small set of draft icons to symbolize how user data might be treated by online service providers.
Agreements have been made shorter by removal of redundant information.
Simplified versions of agreements can be written in everyday language instead of legalese.
Proposal by Tom Scott to provide CC-licensed boilerplate Terms of Service documents (and other contracts). Last known activity: 2009
Part of dataportability.org, this side-project aimed to create a standard format to describe the data portability policy of an online service. They even produced a form-based tool to create such a policy. While we think this is a step in the right direction, it still looks a bit too complex, and portability, after all, is just one of many aspects, so we think this effort should become a part of something more holistic.
The following contributions primarily contribute by highlighting the problem. Some of them point in the direction of a possible solution, though.
Many of them use humor and give great illustrations of the problem.
The follwing two TED talks do not specifically mention Terms of Services and Privacy Policies, but they deal with the problem on a more general level.
Alan Siegel: Let’s simplify legal jargon
Sandra Fisher-Martins: The right to understand
According to this newspaper article
(in swedish) the company PC Pitstop wrote in their EULA that the user would get a financial reward just by contacting the company and notify them that they read the clause. Only 1 out of 3000 users did this – and got a $1000 reward.
By being brutally frank and honest instead of complex, Dan Tynan thinks privacy policies could become more widely read and understood. Humor.
The small print project
Printed T-shirts with bogus agreements on them, protesting against bad EULAs etc. Andy Sternberg started the project after an idea by Cory Doctorow and Steve Simitzis. Last known activity: 2007.
Those Sneaky Bastards
Project started in 2012 by law researcher Renee Lloyd, commenting on the non-sustainable situation of unreasonable, unread adhesive contracts online.
Yet another spin-off from the VRM project. This is a non-profit organization aiming to create "a world of liberated, powerful, and respected customers". Started late 2011.
Terms & Conditions May Apply - the movie
Highly relevant movie trailer from late 2012. Looking forward to see if there's going to be more than a trailer!
The Biggest Lie
Our own campaign trying to "give voice to the consumers who want the hypocricy to end". Vistors can confess the biggest lie ("Yes I have read and agree...") and at the same time protest. Opened May 30 2012.
on the “Biggest lie on the internet” (“I have read and agree…”).
The comic series made an episode called the “HumancentiPad”, in which a user has to suffer extensively because of having signed an agreement permitting just about anything. Be warned, it is a strong illustration.
TV show (in Swedish) discussing the “I accept generation
”. Among other things the TV show said that one company has written in their Terms that by accepting the terms “you give us your soul”.
Perhaps the message can come across if the agreements are dramatized by professional artists
This blog post
describes the problem of non-readable EULAs, and proposes a solution based on the creation of a database of clauses, to which every EULA should make reference.
Actually, our database of common terms
pretty much resembles what Scode is describing.
Data Practice Policy and Negotiated Use
This blog post
by Paul Corriveau from september 2012 describes the problem of non-readable TOSs, and proposes a solution quite similar to CommonTerms.
This list is an adaption of a similar list on the Creative Commons Wiki
, which we put together after discussing the issue with Creative Commons' Mike Linksvayer. If you know of other relevant projects, please edit that page or contact us