evolutionIt’s a good thing that Satan is so behind the times.

All these eons spent crafting complex traps to get people to sign that infamous contract where they sell their soul to the devil. All that human suffering that led to the creation of Faust and of the category AT 756B.

So much wasted effort, when today all it really takes is a reasonably popular (preferably viral) web app, a well crafted TOS, and a "Yes, I agree to the terms of service" checkbox.

Do you read these terms of service? I usually scan them quickly, which is probably more than most people do. But this quick scan will probably not be enough to reveal clause 666b, which says "Furthermore, by using the Service you agree to provide the Devil with an eternal non-revocable complete ownership license for your soul".

Back when Facebook did that controversial change to its terms of service I’ve discussed with some friends a way to avoid this finely crafted trap. My suggestion consisted of the following components:

  1. Service that tracks changes to the TOS of any web site
  2. TOS change subscribe / alert mechanism
  3. External translation of "legalspeak" TOS into "TOS Commons" – a set of standard TOS building blocks, written in "peoplespeak" by the community, microformats-enabled – similar to the Creative Commons approach.
  4. API to allow access to the TOS change data, and to the "TOS Commons" version
  5. Browser plugin that will automatically alert you visit a site that changed its TOS since you signed up, and displays the equivalent "TOS Commons" version
  6. Widgets friendly web app builders can use to display their TOS Commons next to their legal mambo-jumbo TOS during a transition period
  7. Marketing campaign to create awareness for the issue and new service by getting people to sign up for a service that includes clause 666b, and after they sign up, tell them what they signed and offer to redeem their souls by downloading the browser plugin (which, mind you, will NOT change their default search provider to

I never actually kickstarted any of these :) but today Eran reminded me of the TOSBack web app, released by the EFF back in June.

So, #1 and #2 are done. Perhaps #3 – #7 will be an interesting as a GeekCon project?