Terms of Service Revisited: Docracy’s ToS Tracker

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The Verge pointed out in a blog post today a new service from one of my favorite websites, Docracy (a website that takes a GitHub approach to drafting contracts? How could that not be a straight shot to my heart?). I hadn’t heard of the service yet, and it fits neatly into a series of posts [1, 2, 3] that Rob, Matt, and I wrote around a month ago. As The Verge details, the service scrapes a large number of terms of service every day, stores them, and highlights changes.

The Verge sees the opportunity here for people to catch companies who silently change the terms that bind their users, and that’s true. This service, though, can also serve to help the competition in terms of service that we were discussing in our previous blog posts. Companies that are proud of their terms should start linking to their page at Docracy to show that they will be transparent about how and when their ToS change.

Any companies that wanted to take it to the next level could use Docracy as a collaborative space to design changes to the terms alongside their users, allowing them to propose changes and discuss their impact. The end result would clearly not necessarily be the result of that collaboration, but companies that even went so far as to have the discussion would get plenty of points with discriminating users.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668198695 Veronica Picciafuoco

    Thanks for the appreciation, Ross! Docracy’s mission is to make legal documents more understandable and transparent, which is a value that companies are starting to recognize. We’ve already been contacted by websites who proactively asked to be tracked. We track our own Terms of course, and we take time in explaining every change:https://www.docracy.com/doc/versions?docId=14. Hopefully the tracker can incentivize this behavior across sites.