Terms Of Service
Thesis project

Terms Of Service is a project about the relationship between ‘big tech’ and its users. A relationship which has become an inescapable feature of our lives.

Services like those offered by Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, are becoming increasingly indispensable to modern life - making us essentially captive users.

This state of affairs means that even those of us who criticize these companies for various offences to society like mass surveillance, tax evasion, and the destabilization of democracy, still probably use them every day.

And whenever we use these services we are contributing to their hold on the market, reinforcing our dependency on them, and making ourselves complicit in their misdeeds.

Emblematic of this relationship are the ubiquitous terms of service agreements that we are faced with constantly. These terms of service define our relationship with the service provider - it holds all the power and we are left with a binary choice - agree or decline. Take it or leave it.

Since terms of service are non negotiable, if we wanted to negotiate them, we’d need to do it unilaterally.

The Terms Of Service platform is a place where users can discuss how to go about this unilateral negotiation.

Tech companies spend great amounts of money and effort on understanding their users, catering to them efficiently and monetizing them.

The Terms Of Service project posits that being less predictable users can be a form of agency or non-compliance.

The platform is a parasitic web of pages that are hosted on these companies’ vast array of web services and are connected by links, on which various ways of engaging in this unpredictable behaviour are explored and discussed.  

Since new pages can always be created and linked to the platform as long as at least one page exists, these competing companies would have to band together in order to root out the entire platform.

Examples of this unorthodox user behaviour include sharing user accounts and swapping the function of one service with that of another.

In the process of operating this way the data we produce becomes less legible, less valid, and less monetizable.

Using such carefully designed services in unintended ways will of course change the way they work and might impede some of their functionality. And yet, might it not also reveal hidden affordances within these services?  

Is it possible to carve out a space for user agency within terms of service?

Join the conversation at termsofservice.xyz