Digital Watchdog Group Jumps on User Licenses
Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a consumer watchdog, embarked on a new project called Terms of (Ab)Use. Terms of (Ab)Use is the EFF's attempt to enable people to understand what their End User License Agreements (EULAs) mean.
The EFF views EULAs as private contracts that enable online service providers to circumvent existing law and dictate their legal relationship with customers. They are frequently written to be one-sided in favor of the service provider, and are "designed to be beyond judicial scrutiny," it said.
The organization's objective is to cut through confusing legalese, and state what the contracts say in plain language. That goal is laudable, and could lead to greater transparency, but I wonder whether it is a problem that end users actually care about.
Do the majority of people even read EULAs before they click "Accept"? It's doubtful. People just want to use the service, whether it be Gmail or an online game, and the provider determines how its service should be used.
The EFF needs to communicate the value of what it is doing to the public in order to be successful. Unfortunately, it is facing an uphill battle.
If a bridge collapsed, people would demand consequences. Yet, software failures are accepted, and the cost of those failures is passed onto consumers. With the exception of businesses that have iron-clad service level agreements, we are accustomed to a one-sided relationship with software vendors. There is no real framework for liability in the software industry.
It takes a group like EFF to stand up for users' rights.