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For over a decade, society has dubbed reading and understanding the terms of service as the “biggest lie on the Internet”. Reading pages after pages of jargon is a waste of anybody’s time and can especially be frustrating to those with poor vocabulary skills. In fact, this embellishment has been so ubiquitous that the issue has been taken to Congress and the Legislative branch of government. According to the “Terms of Service, Labeling, Design, and Readability Act” (TLDR Bill), proposed by U.S Representative Lori Trahan and U.S Senator Bill Cassidy, businesses will “require summary statements that are concise, easy to understand, machine-readable, and located at the top of the existed terms of service page” in hope that reading the terms of service will be more understandable and simplistic.

The bill outlines the categories that must be included in the Terms of Service agreement, such as “The categories of sensitive consumer information, when and how a consumer can delete their information, and the legal liabilities of a consumer using the service”. Also, all of these categories must be appropriately tagged using a markup language like XML to facilitate analysis of the terms.

Rules regarding the requirements of creating the Terms of Use, according to the bill, will be dealt with by the Federal Trade Commission. This means that small businesses and corporations are exempt from these requirements. Rather, the bill requires these businesses to “include summary statements and produce logs outlining a list of reported data breaches over the past three years”.

While some agree that the TLDR Bill seems plausible on paper, others believe that this updated privacy policy is unrealistic. Reporter and business analysis asserts that the bill “makes no mention of actual privacy policies and the different flavors of anonymous data that companies can freely collect, even though that data is usually just as sensitive as our address or phone number”. While the terms may appear more concise, the functionality proves that personal information may still be at risk regardless of the rate of data breaches.

Thanks to COVID, the FTC has been struck with numerous HSR filings over the previous years that the commission will probably not have time to read this proposal. Filings include negotiation with the DOJ for more mergers and acquisitions to control their debt. As a result, if the proposal gets approved, the bill will likely remain on a state level, so don’t be surprised if bombarded with more 30 page documents.

TLDR (see what we did there?!): This proposal will not prove beneficial and will rather do more harm than good. While more website summaries sound promising, the condensed nature of information will mean more terms are left out which could only lead to more data breaches and less privacy and security. As a result, the “TLDR Act” should just remain as “Too long, didn’t read”.

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