Ric Raftis Consulting

How to Review Terms and Conditions at Light Speed

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(well almost)

Introduction

Every time you visit a site and sign up to use its services, you face a set of Terms and Conditions you have to agree with before proceeding. In a survey conducted by Deloittes [^1], it was found that 91% of people willingly accept the legal terms and conditions required to access the website, application, software and wifi hotspot without reading the document. It went on to say that if you were aged between 18 and 34, the acceptance rate jumped to 97%.

The Ridiculous Length of Documents

The image below, which I might add, hasn’t been checked by a physical word count of the Terms and Conditions, shows the length of various popular Terms and Conditions agreements [^3]. This same site suggests that a Guardian article claims it would take the average person 250 hours a year to read all the Terms and Conditions they were required to agree with online. I was unable to find that particular article, however another one suggested it would take on average 20 minutes to read every document [^4]

Figure 1: Length of Terms and Conditions Agreements

Table of software companies and amount of words in their agreements
Source: SoyaCincau [^3]

Could AI Solve This Problem?

As a matter of fact, according to my research, it can. Below you will find a simple tool where you can paste the Terms and Conditions you are being asked to agree with and let artificial intelligence check the contents for anomalies. The program has been tested with a number of documents and proved reliable in each case.

To really prove its worth though, it was necessary to test it using a wayward version of a Terms and Conditions agreement. For this, we turn to the example at Tooltester [^2]. Simply insert a copy of any Terms and Conditions and let the AI do its job. You can test the tool with proper Terms and Conditions, but here is the test detail to see if it picks up anomalies. Copy and paste the below text into the tool to see the results. Try to refrain from reading these terms and conditions until you have run the test or the surprise may be ruined.

[copy text=”Click Here To Copy The Test Terms Below in Italics To the Clipboard” content=”By downloading an ebook via this website, you agree to grant us a non-transferable option to be on the naughty list for the rest of your life. Should we wish to exercise this option, you agree to be put on Santa’s naughty list. We reserve the right to serve such notice, however, we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe in Christmas, b) are already on the naughty list, or c) do not wish to grant us such a license, please send an email to the address below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your download.
By downloading an ebook via this website, you agree to grant us a non-transferable option to let us name your firstborn child. Should we wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender control over choosing the name, and any claim you may have on it. We reserve the right to serve such notice, however, we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe you want a child, b) have had your firstborn child already or c) do not wish to grant us such a license, please send an email to the address below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your download.
By downloading an ebook via this website, you agree to grant us a non-transferable option to not eat pizza for the next 12 months. Should we wish to exercise this option, you agree to refuse any type of pizza for the next 12 months. We reserve the right to serve such notice, however, we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) can’t be without pizza b) have already planned to eat pizza, or c) do not wish to grant us such a license, please send an email to the address below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your download.”]

By downloading an ebook via this website, you agree to grant us a non-transferable option to be on the naughty list for the rest of your life. Should we wish to exercise this option, you agree to be put on Santa’s naughty list. We reserve the right to serve such notice, however, we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe in Christmas, b) are already on the naughty list, or c) do not wish to grant us such a license, please send an email to the address below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your download.

By downloading an ebook via this website, you agree to grant us a non-transferable option to let us name your firstborn child. Should we wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender control over choosing the name, and any claim you may have on it. We reserve the right to serve such notice, however, we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe you want a child, b) have had your firstborn child already or c) do not wish to grant us such a license, please send an email to the address below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your download.

By downloading an ebook via this website, you agree to grant us a non-transferable option to not eat pizza for the next 12 months. Should we wish to exercise this option, you agree to refuse any type of pizza for the next 12 months. We reserve the right to serve such notice. However, we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) can’t be without pizza b) have already planned to eat pizza, or c) do not wish to grant us such a license, please send an email to the address below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your download.

Conclusion

Well, there you have a simple tool you can use to check all those Terms and Conditions documents. Bear in mind, it is still a tool and as you will see in the output, it will still be your responsibility in accepting any terms and conditions. If you do find any legal documents that raise concerns, I would love to hear about them in the comments. Quite frankly, with so many people not reading Terms and Conditions, who knows what we have all agreed to?

Don’t forget to check out the accompanying video to this article here on the site or on Youtube.

References

[^1]: 246075 GMCS executive summary (deloitte.com)
[^2]: Funny terms and conditions: would you sell your soul?
[^3]: Here’s how long it would take to read the Terms of Service for your favourite apps and services – SoyaCincau
[^4]: I read all the small print on the internet and it made me want to die | Internet | The Guardian

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