One of the projects I am involved with is the EULA and TOS working group of dataportability.org. This is some interesting stuff, and I’d like to take a minute to discuss what we’re trying to accomplish and why we think it’s important.
If you were to attend one of our meetings (every other Wednesday at 20:00 UTC), you’d hear that we frequently invoke the Creative Commons. To my eyes, the CC performed two services (both equally important). The most visible was the legal documents, but what I think is often overlooked is how brilliantly they framed the conversation. They provided the terms and concepts that allowed the conversation to take place. With the CC, it was possible for users to quickly determine what their expectations of the service provider were, and what the service provider expected of them in return. Previously, a user had to understand the specific terms of each site independently. The CC made it possible for users to quickly evaluate the terms offered by a site, know whether they were in compliance, and determine whether they wanted to take part.
This is, more or less, what we want to provide for Data Portability. Our ultimate goal is a set of legal “modules” that can inform or be included in TOS and EULA documents. That’s a way off, though, as right now we’re working through the terms and concepts that will help people understand what they’re agreeing can be done with their data.
It’s a sprawling topic, and touches questions of identity, privacy, individual control, and property. Our hope is to provide the conceptual tools that help people understand the decisions they’re making when they sign up to a service.