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.
Most projects focus on privacy, while CommonTerms tries to address accessibility of all kinds of terms and conditions online.
This page is divided in four sections, based on the primary means of making agreements more accessible:
Icons and graphics
Started by Aza Raskin while he was working for Mozilla, this project has done a great job drafting icons to describe a select set of
privacy parameters. Being a Mozilla project, there's a chance that the icons may be presented in a dedicated browser panel rather
than on a webpage somewhere on a website. We very much like the effort, which has a high quality and involved great people,
but the alpha proposal still has a number of drawbacks (eg. complex icons, red/green colors to indicate good/bad policies -
who would put a red color on their site?). CommonTerms wants to build on the many valuable findings from Mozilla Privacy Icons.
Last known activity: December 2010.
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
Terms of Service; Didn't Read
This very successful project is trying a different path to solving the same problem: Using crowdsourcing they are grading (A-F) website policies and creating 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!
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 lots of support and will probably continue anyway!
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.
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.
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
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.
The following projects have approached the problem mainly by trying to make the text of the agreement shorter or clearer, or both.
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.
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
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. Seems to be closed, June 2012.
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.
These projects propose some kind of solution to the problem
or to a related problem.
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.
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.
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.
Automated analysis of Terms of Service documents that you upload to their server. Last known activity: October 2014
UN/IGF Dynamic Coalition on platform responsibility
"A multi-stakeholder effort aimed at producing model contractual provisions (called Platform-User Protections, or PUPs), which can be incorporated in ToS in order to provide intelligible and solid mechanisms to protect platform-users’ human rights and foster platform providers’ responsibility." Last known activity: October 2014
Italian company offering a simple tool to create easy-to-understand Privacy policies. Last known activity: February 2013
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.
EFF project tracking changes to TOS documents for popular online services.
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
Disconnect.me Privacy Icons
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.
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.
The gaming company has produced a gamification of their privacy policies.
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.
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 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