Apple EULA, Google Terms and Conditions Agreement

Apple's EULA and Google's TOC appear reasonable seen through the lens of today's political and legislative climate. Unfortunately, the documents (these types of documents in general) are unreadable and draconian. Unreadability leads to an opaque, closed world for users and providers. Rather than adopting "lock and key"-as-a-service (LKAAS), these providers ought consider their services as public goods; and users ought to be utilizing tools to own and manage these services independently [1]. It is unreasonable that Google sells an unwitting customer's e-mails to advertisers, given Google's monopoly status and e-mail as a public good.

Similarly, software licensing is presently a necessary evil. Users are chastised for "looking under the hood." "Taking the owner's word," users are dumbed-down and left beholden to the pittance of large enterprises, who create black-boxes out of uncomplicated code and algorithms that users do not even begin to comprehend. By now users ought to be distinctly knowledgeable of systems and software. With collaboration and public good in mind, providers ought to be fighting over the customers who seize the moment to glimpse deeper (free eyes-on-the-code; code-bases without users are worthless) rather than pretending to give a damn all the while keeping consumers locked away in the dark age of unknowledge.

Rather than supporting enterprises intent on building fortresses, users ought to be supporting enterprises intent on pursuing the public good.

[1] "Build decentralized software (with no App servers)," 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.csail.mit.edu/node/2222. Accessed: Feb. 5, 2017.


Terms and Conditions, EULAs, Opt-In vs. Opt-Out

One: Assume a site has a Terms and Conditions stating you are not allowed to share paid accounts between users. Assume you given ten people access to your paid account to access online media. When does breaking the Terms and Conditions of a website warrant legal action? When does it warrant suspending a user's account? Are you trespassing (legal matter) on this website when you allow someone to log in to your account at that website? Or are you simply breaking their Terms and Conditions? (See: Kerr, Orin S. "Norms Of Computer Trespass." Columbia Law Review 116.(2016): 1143. LexisNexis Academic: Law Reviews. Web.)

Two: What rights should users have when their accounts are suspended due to violating the Terms and Conditions of a website? Should users have the right ("legal recourse") to appeal account suspension? For example: Assume that a user makes a living on a website. The website owner chooses to suspend the user's access over minor infractions. Should this user be allowed to appeal the suspension to a third-party arbitrator (someone not connected to the website)? How would the user's rights change with the type (and size) of the website? That is, consider two types of sites: The first site is a stay-at-home dad's WordPress blog. There are eighty registered users on the website. The second site is an online marketplace with 12 million users: 10 million private "contractors" performing various services; and 2 million "customers" and clientele, who contract work out to the contractors. The marketplace oversees $40 million in transactions per month. The marketplace takes a ten percent cut on all transactions (that is, about $4 million per month). How does the user's right to access differ between these two sites?

Three: Smartphones and WiFi-enabled devices are ubiquitous nowadays. Should anyone at any time be able to ping your device to find out its location without your consent? How might an opt-in / opt-out scheme work for WiFi-enabled devices? (Another possible direction to take this is to consider changing WiFi networking such that devices only respond to requests from routers and devices that the user has okayed.)

Four: In opt-out voting registration users are automatically registered to vote unless they choose to opt-out. This is different from the current American voting system. In the most places in America voters have to opt-in to become registered to vote. How do you feel about opt-out voter registration?

Five: Why are EULAs so lengthy and difficult to read and comprehend? Could it be that EULAs are written by lawyers with the intention that the EULA will be read by lawyers and judges, and not by everyday consumers? Should there be a requirement that EULAs are readable and comprehensible by end users? One method of enforcing readability would be to require an "abstract" of the EULA. This abstract could be a one paragraph introduction with a one hundred-word limit which would summarize the most important aspects of the EULA, in the eyes of the end user. Companies would write an abstract for each of their EULAs. These abstracts would then be peer-reviewed, altered, and finally accepted or rejected by a third-party or governing body. In the case of rejection, the abstract would have to be further altered and again submitted to the reviewing agency. What are the pros and cons of this approach? What are some other approaches that could make EULAs easier to read and comprehend?

Licensed as CC0, No Rights Reserved. By David Shumway, 2017.