How the terms and conditions changed more than ten thousand times during 2016

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2016 through its changes in terms and conditions

In October of 2015, we launched the first fruit of our Legal LAB, the Tracker of Terms and Conditions. It was a tool to track changes in terms and conditions. Although it wasn’t perfect, through it we were trying to reach a goal that seemed reasonable and useful: to know when and how the services change their terms and conditions.

So, the Tracker of Terms and Conditions was born.

But, why is it important to know how and when the services change their terms and conditions? Because at the end of the day, the terms and conditions are a contract. A contract that it is established by one of the parties, usually the company, and the user can only accept o reject the content. So, the user does not have the option to negotiate the terms.

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The Tracker of Terms and Conditions – Our first experiment in the Legal LAB

This contract creates rights and obligations for both parties, but only one party has control over them (the company). Even though the law protects the user against plenty of unfair practices that the company may try to introduce through the terms and conditions, not all of them are reported. Besides, there are modifications on the legal texts of a storing, messaging or hosting service that are important to it but not unfair.

In summary, to know when and how the terms and conditions change, can be useful and good to: 1) report unfair practices according to the law and; 2) to find out about some of the surprises that the small print can include.

We love to track how the terms and conditions change (a little too much, maybe) :p, that’s why we follow them daily and from time to time we highlight the important ones. In fact, thanks to that we “announced” that Apple had bought Topsy 5 days before the official announcement (Topsy changed its Privacy Policy too soon). In any case, during a full year plenty of changes happen, and in 2016 we have tracked more than a few. To be precise, during 2016 we have detected 10.512 changes in terms and conditions.

However, before we start looking at the data, what do we understand as a “change”? Well, when there is a modification on a legal text such as Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, Cookie Policy or some other text that could be understood as terms and conditions (more than a few).

If the change is normal (a grammar mistake was fixed, a comma added or some text was translated from English to Spanish, for example), that’s a non-important change.

If the change goes beyond fixing a mistake (it adds or modifies rights and obligations for the user), then we take into account if the date from the “Last Update” section was updated too. Because that would be useful for a user who would want to know if that text has been modified from its last visit.

Let’s not forget that the terms and conditions usually say that we should check them regularly to see if something has been added or changed. Perfect, but they should provide some sign of it, right? Well, that’s what we track.

Having said that, if the change did not modify the “Last Update” section, we tag that change as Bad or an important modification that was not notified to the user.

If the change updated the date from that section, then we tag the change as Good or an important modification that was notified to the user.

And now, let’s check some data about the changes that we tracked in terms and conditions during 2016.

 

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4th Anniversary – Now with a widget for the terms and conditions changes

Cuarto Aniversario de Términos y Condiciones

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4 years ago I started writing Terms and Conditions. Time goes by and the life events that come with it even more…

If truth be told, this have been quite a trip so far. Thanks to Terms and Conditions I’ve had the chance to meet some very interesting people, to access to some good professional offers, to reach out to mass media that sounded too good to be true and even to contact with institutions that seemed unattainable. Any bad things? Yeah, sure. In any case, I’ve learnt from them the same or even more than from the good ones. So, nothing to complain about.

All in all, and even taking into account everything that has been done so far, I still think that this is just starting. There is still a long way to go. In fact, I have the feeling that this 5th year is going to be specially intense. ;-)

But let’s check what we have in store for today, we are debuting the widget for the Tracker of Terms and Conditions! Developed by the great Alberto de Rodrigo.

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When and how do the terms and conditions change? We know it! :D | The Tracker of Terms and Conditions is born

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In September of 2015, Terms and Conditions debuted its new logo and a new initiative, a Legal LAB. Well then, after some hard work, the first fruit of the LAB is here, the Tracker of Terms and Conditions.

WHAT IS THE TRACKER OF TERMS AND CONDITIONS?

A big evolution of the previous and more primitive version that I’ve been using for the last two years as a “handmade” way to track when and how the terms and conditions change.

The new tracker is an active surveillance tool that almost in real time tracks and monitors what service has changed its terms and conditions, when has that change happened, what document changed, the percentage of text that was modified and how did it change relative to the previous version of the document.

WHO ARE THE CREATORS?

From the Terms and Conditions “Legal LAB”, the creators of the Tracker of Terms and Conditions are: Jorge Morell Ramos, this humble servant :p, and Alberto de Rodrigo Aparicio, a developer obsessed with the idea to make the most out of the legal engineering. For more information.

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