Want a ride in a Lyft? Just sign away your right to sue if they kill, maim, rape or cheat you

Spotted today in my Lyft app: a new set of terms and conditions that require you to "agree" to binding arbitration (an onerous condition heretofore reserved for downtrodden drivers), through which you agree to waive your right to join class action suits or pursue legal redress through the courts should Lyft, through its deliberate actions or negligence, cause you to be killed, maimed, raped or cheated -- something that, not coincidentally, Lyft is in a lot of trouble over at the moment. Read the rest

Empirical review of privacy policies reveals that they are "incomprehensible" drivel

Writer and data journalist Kevin Litman-Navarro subjected 150 privacy policies from leading online services to programmatic analysis for complexity (the Lexile test), and found them to be an incomprehensible mess second only to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason in their lack of clarity. Read the rest

Supreme Court of Canada to rule on the enforceability of arbitration clauses

Back in January, an Ontario court ruled that Uber's arbitration clause couldn't keep its drivers from suing it; Uber has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which has taken up the case and will hear arguments about whether arbitration clauses (through which the parties surrender the right to sue in court) are enforceable in "adhesion contracts" (contracts that are not negotiated, where one party has much less power than the other, such as in click-through agreements). Read the rest

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

TOSsed out: EFF catalogs the perverse ways that platform moderation policies hurt the people they're supposed to protect

TOSsed Out is a new project from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that catalogs the myriad of ways in which Big Tech platforms' moderation policies backfire spectacularly, like the anti-terrorism policies that delete evidence of war-crimes needed by investigators and prosecutors. 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

Ever, an "unlimited photo storage app," secretly fed its users' photos to a face-recognition system pitched to military customers UPDATE

Update: I've been emailed twice by Ever PR person Doug Aley, who incorrectly claimed that Ever's signup notice informed users that their data was going to be used to train an AI that would be marketed for military applications. It's true that during the signup process, users are asked whether they want to "use" facial recognition (that is, to label their images), but not whether they consent to having their images used to train that system, and especially not for commercial military applications.

Ever is an app that promises that you can "capture your memories" with unlimited photo storage, with sample albums featuring sentimental photos of grandparents and their grandkids; but Ever's parent company has another product, Ever AI, a facial recognition system pitched at military agencies to conduct population-scale surveillance. Though Ever's users' photos were used to train Ever AI, Ever AI's sales material omits this fact -- and the only way for Ever users to discover that their photos have become AI training data is to plough through a 2,500 "privacy policy." 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

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

Complying with the new EU data protection directive requires a top-to-bottom redo of the adtech industry

Back in 2016, the EU passed the General Data Protection Regulation, a far-reaching set of rules to protect the personal information and privacy of Europeans that takes effect this coming May. Read the rest

20 years ago, Ted Cruz published a law paper proving companies could always beat customers with terms of service

You might think that when companies impose crappy, abusive terms of service on their customers that the market could sort it out, by creating competition to see who could offer the best terms and thus win the business of people fed up with bad actors. Read the rest

Massachusetts bill would force employers to pay half-salary to laid off employees for duration of noncompetes

Massachusetts is one of the few places in high-tech America where non-compete agreements are enforceable, a factor that scholars have pointed to in explaining why the state's tech industry has stayed so small relative to California, where the best workers can always move to the best companies. Read the rest

To do in Austin: Privacy Settings: A Promethean Tale on stage (and streaming!)

Jon writes, "Austin, Texas theater maven Heather Barfield energizes the discussion of personal privacy with her highly interactive play 'Privacy Settings: A Promethean Tale,' running through June 18 at the Vortex Theatre in Austin (and streaming June 10)." Read the rest