A self-appointed wing of the American judicial system is about to make it much harder to fight terms of service

The American Law Institute is a group of 4,000 judges, law profs and lawyers that issues incredibly influential "restatements" of precedents and trends in law, which are then heavily relied upon by judges in future rulings; for seven years they have been working on a restatement of the law of consumer contracts (including terms of service) and now they're ready to publish. Read the rest

DRM and terms-of-service have ended true ownership, turning us into "tenants of our own devices"

Writing in Wired, Zeynep Tufekci (previously) echoes something I've been saying for years: that the use of Digital Rights Management technologies, along with other systems of control like Terms of Service, are effectively ending the right of individuals to own private property (in the sense of exercising "sole and despotic dominion" over something), and instead relegating us to mere tenancy, constrained to use the things we buy in ways that are beneficial to the manufacturer's shareholders, even when that is at the cost of our own best interests. Read the rest

"Smart" doorlocks have policies that let landlords and third parties spy on you

Latch is a leading vendor of internet-of-things "smart" doorlocks that are in increasing use in rental housing (the company claims 10% of all new multiunit construction incorporates their product); they allow entry by keycode, keycard, and Bluetooth. Read the rest

EFF to Facebook: enforce your rules banning cops from creating sockpuppet accounts and be transparent when you catch cops doing it

Dave Maass from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "Facebook’s practice of taking down these individual accounts when they learn about them from the press (or from EFF) is insufficient to deter what we believe is a much larger iceberg beneath the surface. We often only discover the existence of law enforcement fake profiles months, if not years, after an investigation has concluded. These four changes are relatively light lifts that would enhance transparency and establish real consequences for agencies that deliberately violate the rules." Read the rest

Notices at Intel press event seem to say attending photographers must assign copyright to all pictures and videos to the company?

Mitch Wagner attended an Intel press and analyst event today where he spotted these notices "posted discreetly in a couple of places on the walls": at first glance, they seem like your garden-variety abusive bullshit release ("Abandon hope all ye who enter here") but there's a decidedly Vessel-esque clause that seems to be saying that Intel claims the copyright in any photo or video in which any of the event appears, even "distorted in character or form, throughout the world, in all media now known or hereafter invented." This is some next-level bullshit. Read the rest

Most adults are incapable of understanding most online terms of service

A new paper by a business professor and a contract law professor evaluated the terms and conditions of 500 leading websites and found that the 99% of them required at least 14 years of education to truly comprehend, far more than the majority of US adults have attained. Read the rest

Houseplant patent EULA: "Asexual reproduction using scions, buds or cutting is strictly prohibited"

Not much detail on this patented houseplant and its terrifying license "agreement": redditor GooberMcNutly posted it a few hours ago and hasn't said anything else about it. Plants are patentable, and in theory patents reach into private conduct. Whatever the story, this is some primo late-stage capitalism right here. Read the rest

Citing terms of service and "bad actors," Facebook locks out tools that catalog ads and ad targeting

Propublica is one of many organizations, mainly nonprofits, whose "ad transparency" tools scrape Facebook ads and catalog them, along with the targeting data that exposes who is paying for which messages to be shown to whom. Read the rest

Adam Ruins Big Tech: how monopolies, DRM, EULAs, and predatory tactics have delivered our dystopian future

The latest episode of the always-outstanding Adam Ruins Everything (previously) is my favorite yet: a wide-ranging look at the way that tech has exploited policy loopholes to monopolize control over repairs, features, parts and consumables; to spy on users; to use predatory pricing to crush competitors; to avoid taxation; and to become a force for oligarchic control. Read the rest

UK consumer review magazine Which?: your smart home is spying on you, from your TV to your toothbrush

The UK consumer review magazine Which? (equivalent to America's Consumer Reports) has published a special investigation into the ways that Internet of Things smart devices are spying on Britons at farcical levels, with the recommendation that people avoid smart devices where possible, to feed false data to smart devices you do own, and to turn off data-collection settings in devices' confusing, deeply hidden control panels. Read the rest

Uber and Lyft agree to stop forcing driver sexual assault victims into arbitration, confidentiality agreements

Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft have now both stated that they will no longer force victims of sexual assault into non-binding arbitration, as has been the practice of both firms until today. Read the rest

"I Agree": Visualizing terms of service with long scrolls of colored paper

"I Agree" is a Dima Yarovinsky's art installation for Visualizing Knowledge 2018, with printouts of the terms of service for common apps on scrolls of colored paper, creating a bar chart of the fine print that neither you, nor anyone else in the history of the world, has ever read. Read the rest

The world is no longer willing to tolerate the plague of bullshit "agreements"

Mark Zuckerberg says it doesn't matter how creepy and terrible his company is, because you agreed to let him comprehensively fuck you over from asshole to appetite by clicking "I agree" to a tens of thousands of words' worth of "agreements" spread out across multiple webpages; when questioned about this in Congress, Zuck grudgingly admitted that "I don’t think the average person likely reads that whole document." But as far as Zuck is concerned, it doesn't matter whether you've read it, whether you understand it, whether it can be understood -- you still "agreed." Read the rest

Terms of Service; Didn't Read: a browser add-on that warns you about the terrible fine-print you're about to "agree" to

ToS;dr is a crowdsourced database of website terms of service; install the associate plugin and your browser will display a letter grade (from A to F) for every site you visit, with subcategories for things like data-retention and the rights the site asserts to your contributions. Read the rest

Federal court will allow the ACLU to keep suing for the right to violate terms of service for legitimate purposes

Back in 2016, the ACLU and First Look (the publishers of The Intercept) sued the US government to force it to clarify that the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- the overbroad statute passed during over a panic sparked by the movie "Wargames" -- does not prohibit violations of terms of service. Read the rest

The future legal shenanigans that will shift liability for pedestrian fatalities involving self-driving Ubers

This week, a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian in Arizona, the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle; in his analysis of the event, Charlie Stross notes that Arizona's laws treat corporations that kill people with considerably more forbearance than humans who do so, and proposes that in the near future, every self-driving car will be owned by a special-purpose corporation that insulates its owner from liability. Read the rest

Vendor lock-in, DRM, and crappy EULAs are turning America's independent farmers into tenant farmers

"Precision agriculture" is to farmers as Facebook is to publishers: farmers who want to compete can't afford to boycott the precision ag platforms fielded by the likes of John Deere, but once they're locked into the platforms' walled gardens, they are prisoners, and the platforms start to squeeze them for a bigger and bigger share of their profits. Read the rest

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