[conspire] terms of service, illustrated

Tony Godshall tony at of.net
Tue Aug 30 10:14:52 PDT 2011

On Mon, Aug 29, 2011 at 2:23 PM, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:
> Quoting Tony Godshall (tony at of.net):
>> 1. I apologize for poorly configuring google+.
> Given that you're also a Facebook user,

Am I?  Yeah, I think I set it up one time.  It started listing people
I should add.  Way creepy.  Did nothing with it since.  Thought I
should maybe set up a static page to point people to my e-mail.

> one would think you'd be a bit
> wary of such functions.

Yah it was dumb of me

> Still, neither so far is as pestiferous as
> LinkedIn.

Are you on a social network, Rick?  Or is this third-hand.

>> > ...agreeing with its terms of service, and (legally speaking) agreeing to
>> > be Google, Inc.'s customer, thus consenting to them and their business ...
>> 2. Thanks for pointing out the terms of service issue.  Looking into
>> this, I did find this amusing comic book version from PBS:
>> http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2011/07/google-terms-of-service-illustrated202.html
> That's amusing, but it's not even _primarily_ a matter of 'terms of
> service', though those alleged contracts do sometime alert one to
> particular vendor misbehaviour that is likely:  For example, if Kindle
> users had attentively read Amazon.com's terms of service, the 2009
> scandal where they retroactively erased not only all customer-purchased
> copies of two Orwell e-books but also independent customer notes and
> annotations those books, they wouldn't have been taken by surprise.

So much lawyerese in contracts is worst-case stuff, it's really
not surprising people didn't take it that seriously until it was
implemented.  There's so much contractual stuff to wade through
these days, it's hard to function.

> However, no, in this case, I'm not talking about the particular clauses
> of Google+'s terms of service -- even with the far more problematic
> Legal Notices, Universal Terms, and Additional Terms that are
> incorporated by reference but not discussed by Ryan Estrada's lazy-ass
> infographics gag page.

PBS is essentially doing a disservice by oversimplifying
the contract, aren't they.  Similar problem to that of people
not reading the contracts because they are too long.
I've often thought it would be interesting to study law and
find out how these kinds of issues really hash out in the
real world.  But then you'd have to deal with lawyers more
than we already do.  And we all know that's not much fun.

> I'm talking about something a lot more fundamental:
> Whenever you sign up for, and use, a customer-specific login with a Web
> 2.0 company, you become regarded in a legal sense having entered an
> 'established business relationship' with that company, which gives the
> company -- _and_ also any and all business associates, business
> partners, and contractors (whom Google refers to as 'subsidiaries and
> affiliated legal entities around the world ('Subsidiaries and
> Affiliates")' -- by statute legal rights to 'contact' (i.e., spam or
> marketing-call) you, to compile detailed personal information about you,
> and to sell that information to others.

Even after you give up the "service".

> Moreover, it is an unusually one-sided 'established business
> relationship' in which the Web 2.0 company has extremely
> minimal-to-nonexistent obligations of fair dealing and due diligence
> towards its customers, because they are not paying for it.  (I'm not
> sure that point's been adjudicated, but think at minimum the writing's
> on the wall.)

I'll watch for that.

> The 'established business relationship' matter enters law in a lot of
> little ways, including junk fax, the CAN-SPAM Act and other antispam
> litigation, the Nationwide Do Not Call List, and debt collection
> regulations.  People seem to forget that your right of privacy, your
> right not to be bothered, your right not to be spied on / data-mined /
> marketed to death is slim-to-none concerning any firm you're judged to
> be doing business with.  And computer users seem _extremely_ slow to get
> that message, and realise that Web 2.0 / SaaS / social-networking /
> ad-supported hosted-services companies offer the very worst sort of deal
> in this department.


> As an aside, Estrada's parody ignores completely the most if-fy clauses of
> the Google+ TOS, not to mention literally 100% of the Legal Notices,
> Universal Terms, and Additional Terms.  His comments are excellent about
> the clauses he does address, though.

It's certainly a fun look at lawyerese and plain language but given
you discussion above it clearly does misrepresent the issues as overly
benign and I'll certainly not pass it on further without proper disclaimers.

>> > partners spamming and data-mining me.  Sorry, I don't do Web 2.0 cults,
>> > especially those run by DoubleClick's corporate parent.
>> Yeah, there is that.  Have you read Scroogled?  Did you enjoy?
> Sure I read it.  I'm slowly catching up on all of Cory's output.  Not
> bad.

I enjoy his stuff.  He reads drafts of his books and stories into his
podcast- it is one of the things that entertains me on my long commute

Did you see him on the panel at Renovation on the last day?  He was a
lot more cogent than the rest, I though.

Best Regards.

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