Friday, January 21, 2022

Want the “TLDR” on a site’s terms of service? There’s a bill for that

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Democrats and Republicans are getting behind a new bill, launched Thursday, that would pressure tech firms to simplify the language of their terms of service agreements, making it simpler for customers to know.

The Terms-of-service Labeling, Design and Readability Act – or TLDR for quick – would require web sites to offer a “summary statement” for customers earlier than they choose in to a terms of service settlement. The assertion would summarize the authorized jargon into one thing extra simply understood by the common consumer, together with disclosing any latest information breaches (from the three years) and the sorts of delicate information the website might gather. The abstract would additionally clarify “whether a consumer can delete their data, and if so, provide instructions on how.”

“For far too long, blanket terms of service agreements have forced consumers to either ‘agree’ to all of a company’s conditions or lose access to a website or app entirely,” Rep. Lori Trahan (D-MA), one of the bill’s lead sponsors, mentioned in a assertion on Thursday. “No negotiation, no alternative, and no real choice.”

This bipartisan push for larger transparency into tech comes after Facebook confronted months of criticism from lawmakers over how the firm might hurt customers. Specifically, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified earlier than Congress a number of occasions, outlining a sequence of leaks she launched after leaving the social media firm. Lawmakers used these disclosures as a means of demanding extra transparency from the embattled social media firm and others, like Snap, TikTok, and YouTube.

It’s unclear if lawmakers have obtained any extra inside studies, like these involved with psychological well being, from any giant tech firms, as of publication.

While the TLDR Act applies to most giant web sites and apps, like Facebook and Twitter, it exempts some small companies. The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys basic can be the primary enforcers of the legislation, and they might be licensed to hunt civil motion towards websites that break it.

“Users should not have to comb through pages of legal jargon in a website’s terms of services to know how their data will be used,” mentioned Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). “Requiring companies to provide an easy-to-understand summary of their terms should be mandatory and is long overdue.”

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