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Building Trust with Comprehensible Terms of Service Agreements

by Mert Kocabagli


Presented to the School of Journalism and Communication
In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Advertising and Brand Responsibility

Spring, 2020

Approved by: _______________________

Adviser: Maxwell Foxman, Ph.D.

       This paper seeks to advise on social media platforms’ inconsiderate design decisions that

mislead users on their terms of services (ToS) and other related agreements. Within the context

of social media platforms, the role of data collection and related design decisions have a big

impact in today’s digital society and economy. In the current tech-driven society, brands’

business models rely on specifically written elements in the ToS on their products or services to

collect consumers’ data to sell to third parties. If one looks at recent technology scandals,

inconsiderate design decisions on the ToS and related unethical data practices are the cause of

the majority of incidents. An example is the recent Facebook scandal involving Cambridge

Analytica. According to the federal trade commission’s post on July 24, 2019, Facebook

received the penalty for violating consumers’ privacy and its the largest penalty ever given by

the U.S government for any violation. The purpose of the penalty is to discourage future privacy

related violations and, more importantly, to address Facebook's approach to privacy (FTC,

2019). Consumer privacy is important for both social media platforms and its users in different

ways; the lack of readability and awareness of the ToS and its content creates an advantage for

platforms to manipulate its users' privacy and information.

       Responsible brands are aware of the importance of their consumers' privacy and meet

their changing needs to create long-term customer loyalty and a strong reputation as a brand.

Unethical data practices, and related design decision models have a negative influence on

long-term business strategies because brands may permanently lose their consumers’ trust. I

recommend user interface and experience design are solutions for improving difficult to navigate

ToS agreements apart from updating esoteric legal language. The goal of the paper is to prove

that ToS designed in a user-friendly way can actually help to educate users about their

information usage by social media platforms and give them the opportunity to make conscious

decisions before registering. Creating transparency through user-friendly ToS and commitment

to social good while remaining profitable makes a social media platform responsible.

Literature Review

What are Terms of Service and End User License Agreements?

       The terms of service, ToS, are legal contracts including sets of rules that users have to

read and then agree to in order to use the service or product. The ToS also refers to Terms of

Use, Terms and Conditions, or Disclaimer depending on the product. There are not any existing

laws that require brands to have the ToS, it is optional (Termsfeed, 2020). Brands need ToS to

protect themselves, own their content, terminate accounts, and limit liability for their services or

products (Termsfeed, 2020). The end user license agreement, EULA, is a legal contract between

a software creator or publisher and the software user. The EULA also refers to Software

Licenses, User Agreements, License Agreements, and Licensed Application End-User

Agreements. Software brands have to have an EULA, so that users agree not to resell the

software without benefiting the software creator (Upcounsel, n.d.).

        Virtual platforms, like web browsers, social media platforms, and games, define their

monetization models in the platforms’ ToS agreements, and, by agreeing to them, users clearly

accept that they are aware of how the platform continues its service. Creators of these virtual

platforms monetized their virtual worlds by selling specifically designed, built-in assets and

features, and this creates virtual economies. These assets and features are defined in these

platforms’ ToS agreements. The article, “Virtual Economies, Virtual Goods and Service

Delivery in Virtual Worlds”​ ​ ​mainly explains the differences between virtual economies and​

        non-virtual economies with related examples. The article only gives an example of how

games protect their content and platform, so it overlooks different virtual industries’ privacy and

protection issues like how instagram protects users' content (Spence, 2010). However, users are

not actually aware when they click “accept” because they lack a complete understanding of what

exactly is defined in ToS agreements because they rush and skim the agreements. Creators of

virtual platforms, both gaming and social media platforms, are aware of the issues behind the

ToS, but they prefer to intentionally benefit from the problem and to grow their businesses

instead of protecting their users' information and obtaining their trust.

Privacy, Confusion Over Language, and the Lack of Standards

       When it comes to privacy, companies should not draw a distinction between virtual and

real-life because many users prefer using their real identities on the internet, but companies are

not giving the same privacy and identity protection as in offline life. The paper “Public lives and

private communities”​ ​ ​explains that the​ concept of privacy does not mean anything in virtual

worlds, online games, social media platforms, and other internet-based platforms because the

creators of those platforms do not follow a democratic approach to respect their users’

intellectual property rights by selling their information to third parties. However, the paper fails

to address privacy issues and to make recommendations to help increase users’ engagement with

the ToS before using the platforms (Halbert, 2020). Since brands and users can have

disagreements on the subject of privacy, brands, virtual or not, must put consumers’ concerns in

the center of their business in order to build transparency and trust.

       Being online in any brand’s platform requires giving away certain information and

privacy about one's life due to the regulation of online platforms. Regulators of online platforms

initially created ToS, privacy policies, and other related legal contracts not in the interest of their

users, but instead so that they could protect themselves and maximize their economic benefits

from their platforms. The paper “Private ordering and the rise of terms of service as

cyber-regulation”​ ​ ​primarily discusses​ that the regularity function of terms of services does not

protect users’ rights and thus affects the internet users’ ability to enjoy online platforms and

mobile applications because users know that each of their interactions will be recorded by

platforms to sell to third parties. According to the paper: “ISO 26000 offers guidance for

businesses on how to involve affected stakeholders in the policy elaboration as well as on how to

implement social responsibility, including through transparency, accountability and human rights

obligations.” The paper recommends that the International Standards Organization, ISO, 26000

could be a solution to protect users' privacy in online platforms. However, the paper omits

particular examples of ISO 26000 practices in any online platforms. Standardizing ToS with ISO

might be challenging because each platform offers and monetizes its service differently (Belli &

Venturini, 2016). There are three common models for the monetization and data usage identified

in social media platforms’ ToS and these differences make it hard to standardize. Since, some

brands, like Facebook and LinkedIn, sell their users’ data to third parties and advertisers for

profit. Other brands, such as Spotify, use subscription models which stops showing advertising

with a purchased membership. Completely separate from the previous two models, other brands,

like WT.Social, rely on donations from users without selling any data or showing any

advertising. Even though there are different business models, they all rely on information

displayed in the ToS.

       The lack of patience on the part of users while registering on online platforms and

downloading softwares causes the biggest technology and privacy problems for consumers.

Many consumers unintentionally rush reading privacy policies and ToS because they just want to

start exploring. The paper “The Biggest Lie on the Internet: Ignoring the Privacy Policies and

Terms of Service Policies of Social Networking Services”​ ​ ​focuses on identifying the degree

to​which different readers ignore or the privacy policies and ToS pages while signing up and

using social media platforms. Users value privacy, however, when it comes to ToS, privacy

comes second to starting to use social media platforms. The paper’s findings do not include any

suggestions for addressing the ignoring of ToS policies besides government regulation on ToS

(Obar & Oeldorf-Hirsch, 2018). In certain occupations and circumstances, ignoring the ToS and

privacy policies is incredibly risky and can lead to cybercrime. Brands are accountable, to a

degree, for cybercrime and other risky situations faced by their users because of their unethical

decisions regarding their ToS pages. The article “Just a click away: terms of service and privacy

policy” discusses school psychologists’ inadvertent violations made by not reading legal

agreements which could put students’ information at risk. The article describes the legal and

ethical implications of ignoring the legal agreements, however, if school psychologists

collaboratively look over companies’ ToS and privacy policies, they can reduce the possible

violations and protect their students' information (Florell, 2017). The esoteric language of the

ToS is the primary issue of privacy related problems and cybercrimes. The paper “Digital

Constitutionalism”​ ​ ​focuses on analyzing the fourteen US-centric, major social media​​ ​platforms’

legal terms and conditions’ accessibility problems due to legal language difficult for average

users to understand, and it requires a certain type of education to comprehend. In contrast, the

paper only suggests improving the legitimacy of platform governance through legal rules and

social obligation. Social media platforms have to be transparent enough without any legal rules

set forth by the government to build trust with their users (Suzor, 2018). If the lack of clarity on

ToS pages is not addressed by social media platforms, users will think twice before choosing

their platform.

       Inconsistency is the core of social media platforms’ unethical data practices. If this

discrepancy continues in social media platforms ToS, they will lose long-term user loyalty and

strong reputations as brands. The study “Reality and Perception of Copyright Terms of Service

for Online Content Creation”​ ​ ​explains the discrepancy and usability problem of​​ ​online content

creation platforms’, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and OkCupid, ToS and other privacy policies

pages’ design related usability problems and overly complex language. Although the study

effectively tests a large number of people to verify how many do not read the ToS, it does not

offer a clear solution to address the issue of complex language and usability. According to the

paper: “Based on our analysis of what terms exist on different websites, we see a great deal of

variability. Beyond ubiquitous and common sense terms such as right to display, there are those

that appear infrequently such as right to commercial use. Therefore, users cannot assume that the

terms will be the same across different websites. This goes against conventional wisdom that the

legalese in TOS is all boilerplate terms.” (Fiesler, Lampe & Bruckman, 2016). ToS related

problems and unethical data practices are not limited to social media platform brands and other

online service or product brands, they also affect mobile application downloading platforms such

as AppStore and Google Play. The paper “The False Prometheus: Customer Choice, Smart

Devices, and Trust” primarily​ ​ ​focuses on mobile applications’​ problematic practice of unrelated

data aggregation while users download and use the applications specifically on smartphones.

Smartphone users regardless of the device model or brand need to be more educated about their

privacy because they make daily decisions that put their information at risk. The paper compares

the two largest applications downloading platforms’ data privacy practices and related ToS,

however, its primary example is Google Play and it fails to include other platforms. The paper

also includes the popular mobile application ​Pokémon GO a​ s an example, which requests

permissions and information from its users without explanation of the purpose of this data

collection. Social media platforms are requesting similar permissions from their users. Including

other application downloading platforms would greatly improve the paper because users interact

with a variety of social media platforms (Lahtiranta, Hyrynsalmi, & Koskinen, n.d.). Including

other ToS examples allows readers to compare, and this is beneficial because each brand has

their own version of the ToS, and users can observe which brands are more transparent with their

ToS and which are not. Twitter, one of the largest social media platforms, allows some public

access to its APIs (Application Programming Interface) to create softwares and visualizations.

According to Twitter’s website: “Twitter data is unique from data shared by most other social

platforms because it reflects information that users choose to share publicly” (Twitter, 2020).

The article “The Right to be Forgotten or the Duty to be Remembered?” Twitter data reuse and

implications for user privacy, primarily discusses Twitter’s function exclusively for politicians

that allows them to delete data from their pages, and the article argues against the feature by

saying non-politicians deserve the same opportunity. The lack of clarity on specific aspects of

the ToS that explains that the function is limited to politicians is not clearly defined in the ToS

(Uršič, 2016).

Social media platforms define their business models on their ToS pages with esoteric

language to protect themselves instead of their users while collecting users’ information and

documenting their interaction behavior to sell to third-party companies. Overall, in the last

twenty years, the social media platforms’ business models have changed very little. These

business models rely on the collection and selling of data to marketers and advertisers. Many

users are not aware of the usage of their information by platforms because the platforms' data

practices are displayed in the ToS agreements that are designed in a non-user friendly way to

trick users. None of the articles recommend specific solutions to increase engagement between

users and the ToS. If platforms continue their data clandestine data practices, they will lose their

consumers' trust which could be the end of their business. However, user friendly design updates

on the ToS have the possibility to both increase brands’ reputation and their amount of users. If

users trust brands to share their information with them and become more aware of how brands

are using their information, they will be less skeptical about seeing advertising, which is usually

targeted by their demographic information and interactions on the platform.


       At the beginning of the world wide web, consumers regarded spam and online advertising

in a similar, negative manner because spam and advertising were both annoying people.

According to ​SPAM: A Shadow History of the Internet​: “Commercial advertising took the title of

“spam” from the bad behavior of flawed inhabitants of the network because it was the same

thing: material irrelevant to the conversation, violating the implicature out of which meaning was

made and wasting attention.” The book’s main structure covers what Spam is, how it works, and

how it has shaped the internet and online communities in recent history. However, the book is

missing the difference between online advertising and spam. According to the book: “Spam is

the use of information technology infrastructure to exploit existing aggregations of human

attention.” (Brunton, p.61​)​. Spam is the precursor to the collection of consumer information

digitally followed by related advertising. Social media has followed in spam’s footsteps, but

social media platforms have enough data to target specific users for advertising purposes. There

is a similarity between ToS and Spam: both often put their users’ privacy in danger for

advertising purposes, specifically on social media platforms due to their monetization models.

       Social media platforms’ algorithms act like Spam's algorithms to collect internet users'

data to sell to third parties for advertising purposes. Social media companies are very clear about

selling their users information in their ToS, but users remain unaware because they typically do

not read the ToS. Nearly all free social media channels and other online platforms use algorithms

and inform their users in the ToS that they will be tracking the users' actions and behaviors on

the platform in order to market products or services through targeted advertising. The article

“Consumers target ire at databases”​ ​ ​informs​ marketers about consumers’ concerns about

targeted marketing that is created by the collection of consumers’ data through their online

interactions with brands. The article suggests that targeted marketing is a preferable marketing

strategy to mass marketing. Many consumers have been irritated by targeting from advertisers

for the last twenty years (Hume, 1991). Consumers are becoming more aware of their social

media consumption especially on Facebook. The new, heightened awareness is coming from

users who are tired of seeing advertising based on their conversations with others and clicking

the like button. The article “Americans’ complicated feelings about social media in an era of

privacy concerns” talks about the reasons why certain users stop using Facebook and other social

media platforms that gather data from them for advertising purposes. However, the article misses

including recommendations for marketers and social media platforms to keep engaging their

users (Rainie, 2018)​. User friendly design updates​ on social media platforms’ ToS that highlight

the sections that explain the selling of information to advertisers could be a good way of stopping

possible future loss of users due to targeted advertising.

User Interface and User Experience Design

       Overall, social media platforms and other tech integrated products and services have done

a poor job of maintaining a considerate default setting based on diverse audiences despite the

fact that these products and services are used by a variety of people with different backgrounds,

                                                                                 ​ echnically
ethnicities, genders, religions, languages, education, and viewpoints. The book​ T

Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech ​explicates the tech

industry's current biases and blind spots, which cause a variety of problems for both users and

employees of technology companies. Wachter-Boettcher highlights the critical role of user

interface and user experience designer in addressing some of the issues. Designers are

responsible for the creation of the forms and inputs, which in turn create digital engagement

through text boxes, menus, selection bars, or other widgets. Designers may address many

technical and non-technical issues in social media platforms and digital products

(Wachter-Boettcher, p.52)​​.​ However, designers are not only the decision makers when it comes​

to the ToS layout design. Platform creators and other stakeholders do not want to address

readability issues on ToS pages with user-friendly design approaches to elucidate to users how

they are using their information. Creators of platforms fear the heightened awareness a more

easily readable ToS page may bring to users. This is because users may reconsider interacting

with these platforms after knowing what happens to their personal data. If platforms continue a

relationship lacking transparency between ToS and its users,​​ ​they will lose the users' trust which

will not be easy to rebuild.

       The experience of esoteric language and bad design on the ToS, EULA, and other legal

related documents reduces consumers' motivation and trust to read them while registering for

online platforms or downloading software. However, the aforementioned issue with those

documents is only fixable by certain methods. The paper “Make it Simple, or Force Users to

Read? Paraphrased Design Improves Comprehension of End User License Agreements”

recommends paraphrasing and improving the layout design for the End User License

Agreements to improve exposure times in contrast to traditional EULAs. Increasement in the

exposure times on EULAs creates transparency which users are mostly looking for from brands.

The paper’s recommendations were only tested with the students who are taking undergraduate

courses in interactive media at large American universities. However, it is still not clear that

paraphrasing and improving the layout design drastically increases exposure times for diverse

audiences (Waddell, Auriemma & Sundar, 2016). Visual design plays a crucial role in

minimizing readability problems on the legal documents that people face in the digital world.

The article “Textured Agreements: Re-envisioning Electronic Consent” focuses on addressing

the readability problem of end-user license agreements due to their length and bad design. The

article proposes visually redesigning the user interface of software agreements as a solution for

improving user experience related problems and calls this solution “Textured Agreements.”

However, the article focuses on software agreements and it thus misses addressing similar types

of issues in ToS that users are faced with during the registration process of social media or other

web-based platforms. In addition, the article does not test recommendations with a diverse

audience such as the older than forty-seven age group (Kay & Terry, 2010). Lack of legibility in

ToS and other similar legal documents is not only a problem for college students and American

consumers. People all over the world are thinking of ways to address this issue. The paper

“SaToS: Assessing and Summarising Terms of Services from German Webshops” explains the

need for SaToS, Software aided analysis of ToS, due to the long juridical text and inconsiderate

interface and experience design in ToS pages on German e-commerce sites, and it also explains

the technology behind the SaTos. Analyzing ToS with a computer aided tool might be a solution

for some online sites, but it could not perform this task thoroughly enough because each platform

has its own way of creating ToS, so it is hard to generalize them. (Braun, Scepankova, Holl &

Matthes, 2017). However, redesigning could be beneficial for all the available ToS to improve

user experience and create transparency.

        In summary, social media platforms are a big part of our lives and the creators of those

platforms intentionally designed them in a specific way so that many users do not question their

interaction, privacy, and the appearance of advertisements while using the platforms. However,

users are getting more conscious about their social media consumption due to recent tech

scandals, are having increasingly negative reactions to targeted advertising, and now have

alternative platform options to consider. In order to address users' privacy concerns regarding

their status as registered users of social media platforms, it is necessary for brands to improve

their ToS and other privacy related agreements usability and transparency. Without an innovative

update that increases both engagement with and readability of ToS pages to address users'

negative privacy concerns, it is difficult to build trust between social media platform brands and

their users.


       To start my project, I created a database that includes ToS agreements of brands from

different industries to create a better sense of the overarching terms of service documentation and

presentation. I needed to look at ToS examples from different social media platforms and other

online-based brands’ to identify key language and design related problems to address in my

research. I found that nearly all the social media platforms follow similar design and language

decisions to display terms of service agreements to their users. I then focused on the popular

social media platforms Facebook, Linkedin, Foursquare, and Spotify’s ToS. Next, I checked

more transparent social media platforms such as Ello and WT.Social’s ToS to compare with

those of the aforementioned more widely used platforms. Each of the social media platforms

included in the case studies were selected because of their unique usage of users data and

monetization model. Each case study follows the structure of:

Platform Name

   ● Overview of the platform’s function and monetization model.

   ● Overview of the ToS including an example piece of content from the ToS and each

       example will highlight the privacy or advertising related problems.

ToS’ Content & Language

   ● Organization of the sections​: Including a table of contents that make the navigation and

       the readability of the page smoother.

   ● Difficulty of the language:​ Using words that average users do not know the meaning of

       and writing sentences with more than twenty words.

● Transparency of the language:​ Sentences are clear enough and easy to understand the

       main objective without creating doubt about one's understanding.

   ● Accessibility of versions in other languages:​ Option of including languages options other

       than English.

   ● Updates​: Including the older version of ToS because almost every year platforms update

       their ToS and what has changed is critical knowledge for users.

ToS’ Design

   ● Typographical hierarchy:​ Using a variety of type sizes and styles to create a strong

       contrast between sections and descriptions.

   ● Composition:​ Overall the lay-out is balanced with the usage of space, including images,

       icons, and more than one color and font to increase readability.

   ● Style:​ Matching the style of ToS with the rest of the branding of the platform with things

       like using the similar typefaces and colors.

   ● User Experience:​ Focusing on usability, for example ease of navigation.

Case Studies


       Facebook is the largest social media platform within more than two billion active users

(Statista, 2020). According to the website ​Buffer:​ “There are more than sixty five million

businesses using Facebook Pages and more than six million advertisers actively promoting their

business on Facebook” (Buffer, 2019). Facebook can identify its users’ communication patterns

and determine their moods and the strength of their relationships with other users. (CMSWire,

2019). Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has a new mantra: "The future is private." From this

quote, one can observe that Zuckerberg subtly acknowledges that today and the past have not

been private. However, the definition of private for Zuckerberg remains unclear. When I looked

at Facebook's ToS, I found ambiguities in the language. However, the overall design of the ToS

is better than many others. There is too much content in the ToS page, and it is almost

impossible to totally understand what Facebook is defining in its ToS. According to Facebook’s


       Protecting people’s privacy is central to how we have designed our ad system. This

       means that we can show you relevant and useful ads without telling advertisers who you

       are. We do not sell your personal data. We allow advertisers to tell us things like their

       business goal and the kind of audience they want to see their ads (for example, people

       between the age of 18-35 who like cycling). We then show their ad to people who might

       be interested (Facebook ToS, 2020).

       For Facebook, directly showing ads to users is more secure than allowing advertisers to

do so. I do not see the difference because at the end of the day users still see the ads and it does

not matter who shows them, and users information is still not private. Facebook expects that

users should feel secure that their name is withheld from advertisers but this means that

Facebook accepts that the rest of their information is being given to advertisers. According to

Facebook’s ToS:

       You give us permission to use your name and profile picture and information about

       actions you have taken on Facebook next to or in connection with ads, offers, and other

       sponsored content we display across our Products, without any compensation to you. For

example, we may show your friends that you are interested in an advertised event or have

       liked a Page created by a brand that has paid us to display its ads on Facebook. Ads like

       this can be seen only by people who have your permission to see the actions you have

       taken on Facebook. You can learn more about your ad settings and preferences

       (Facebook ToS, 2020).

       Facebook sets the default settings not only to target a user’s information to sell to

advertisers, but also the information of the user’s friends and family who interact with the user’s

feed or account. Users have a right to change this, however, it is hard to find in the settings page

without reading the ToS. It is crucial that one checks the ToS and settings before using Facebook

because each user feeds Facebook’s algorithm with their interactions, but each user’s friends and

family contributes to the collected data as well with their interactions on the platform.

Facebook’s ToS

Content & Language

   ● Organization of the sections​: Overall the content is well organized. Including the table of

       contents increases the engagement with each section because it gives speed readers a

       helpful overview.

   ● Language​: The content language is not easily comprehended by the average user.

       Sentences are usually written both verbosely and with esoteric language.

   ● Transparency of the language:​ Definitions are not transparent and not easily understood

       by an average user. There are ambiguities almost in each section.

   ● Accessibility of versions in other languages:​ It includes 112 different language options.

● Updates​: The older versions are not available to view in the current ToS page.


   ● Typographical hierarchy:​ Includes a variety of type sizes such as headers, sub headers,

       body text, numbers, and bullet points to create a better contrast between content and the

       rest of the page.

   ● Composition/Layout:​ It is created with a long text block which makes the page

       overwhelming. However, each section header and subsection divider line includes a

       different color which makes observation of the overall page smoother. Content and white

       space usage balance each other and increase readability.

   ● Style:​ The ToS page’s typeface style and the section breaker color choices do not match

       with the overall Facebook branding.

   ● User Experience:​ Navigation between sections and the overall page is easier than many

       other brand’s ToS, however, it is not visually appealing due to usage of long text blocks.


       Facebook is the largest social networking site in the world today, but LinkedIn, which is

owned by Microsoft, has existed longer. LinkedIn is more than just a job search and resume

platform. It has become a professional social media site rather than an entertaining platform with

more than 575 million registered users and 260 monthly active users (Kinsta, 2020). From

various industries, like CEOs, engineers, designers, new grads, shares content, networks with

one another, and builds their brand while searching for jobs. It has also become a place for

businesses to establish their thought leadership, create authority in their industry, attract talent to

their company. According to the website ​Buffer:​ “​LinkedIn offers advertising opportunities,

such as​​ ​boosting your content, sending personalized ads to LinkedIn inboxes, and displaying ads

by the side of the site” (Buffer, 2019). However, unlike many other social media platforms,

which rely on advertisements, LinkedIn’s services are something that users are willing to pay for,

and 39% of LinkedIn users pay for LinkedIn Premium (Kinsta, 2020)c. When I looked at

LinkedIn’s ToS, I found the language esoteric, but the length of the text is not as long as

Facebook’s. LinkedIn’s ToS seems more transparent than Facebook’s ToS because LinkedIn

included a sentence summary of each section which helps to increase engagement. However,

overall design of the ToS is better than many others. LinkedIn also includes a short video that

summarizes its user agreements. In addition, LinkedIn includes “Dos and Don’ts” in its ToS to

educate its users on what comes across as awkward in a professional setting. According to

LinkedIn’s ToS:

       We will not include your content in advertisements for the products and services of third

       parties to others without your separate consent (including sponsored content). However,

       we have the right, without payment to you or others, to serve ads near your content and

       information, and your social actions may be visible and included with ads, as noted in the

       Privacy Policy. If you use a Service feature, we may mention that with your name or

       photo to promote that feature with our Services, subject to your settings (LinkedIn ToS,


LinkedIn wields users’ data less securely than Facebook because it clearly states in its ToS that a

user’s profile will be a part of their platform’s advertising and that the selling of users data to

third parties without consent or compensation will occur. This means that privacy is out of the

question when it comes to advertising created by LinkedIn itself. Facebook does not say

anything related to creating its own advertising utilizing it’s users data in its ToS.

LinkedIn’s ToS

Content & Language

  ● Organization of the sections​: The overall content is organized well. Including the table of

     contents increases engagement with each section by providing rushed readers a summary.

  ● Language​: The language of the content is not easily comprehensible to the average user,

     but it is slightly more approachable than that of Facebook’s ToS. Because LinkedIn

     includes a summary of each section with one to two sentences, and those summaries are

     very clear and easy to understand by average users.

  ● Transparency of language​: The definitions are more transparent than Facebook’s due to

     including a summary of each section.

  ● Accessibility of versions in other languages​: The page includes twenty four different

     language options whereas Facebook offers 112.

  ● Updates​: The older versions are not available to view in the current ToS page. Including

     the older versions, which highlight the updates, are critical for increasing users'

     awareness of key changes.


  ● Typographical hierarchy:​ The page includes a variety of type sizes such as headers, sub

     headers, body text, numbers, and bullet points to create a better contrast between content

     and the rest of the page.

● Composition/Layout:​ Like Facebook, the page is composed of long text blocks which

       make it overwhelming. Links have a different color than the rest of the content. Content

       and white space usage balance each other and increase legibility.

   ● Style:​ The ToS page’s typeface style and link color choices match with the overall

       branding of LinkedIn.

   ● User Experience:​ The page is easy to navigate, but it is not visually appealing and

       requires extra scrolling to go back to the beginning.


       Spotify is the world’s biggest music streaming platform with 286 million monthly active

users. 130 million of these users are Spotify Premium subscribers. ​ ​As described on the

BusinessofApps​ website: “Free Spotify access comes with lower sound quality, and

advertisements, and requires an internet connection. Those who pay for Spotify Premium can

listen uninterrupted to high-quality recordings, and are able to download songs to any device on

which they have the Spotify app” (BusinessofApps, 2020). Spotify is a two-sided marketplace

where artists and music fans engage, and it monetizes its platform almost 90% based on premium

memberships and around 10% by ad-supported content (FourWeekMBA, 2020). ​ Spotify has

allowed listeners to leverage their following on Facebook and Twitter with its integration, and

simultaneously creating a social platform of their own. In this respect, by offering us another

way to connect and socialize with friends, Spotify has become the newest social network

(CampaignCreators, n.d.). ​Spotify is one of the successful examples of the freemium model

business in social media platforms, and it is very clear that people hate advertising or speed of

content consumption, so users switch to premium models. When I looked at Spotify’s ToS, I

found a lack of clarity in the language, but the overall presentation of the page is cleaner than

that of Facebook or LinkedIn. It seems more organized than the other two platforms because

Spotify includes the table of content on the ToS page, and navigation of the page is easier. The

overall design of the ToS matches with the rest of Spotify’s branding and it is better than many

others. According to Spotify’s ToS:

       The Spotify Service is integrated with or may otherwise interact with third party

       applications, websites, and services (“Third Party Applications”) and third party Devices

       to make the Spotify Service available to you. These Third Party Applications and Devices

       may have their own terms and conditions of use and privacy policies and your use of

       these Third Party Applications and Devices will be governed by and subject to such terms

       and conditions and privacy policies. You understand and agree that Spotify does not

       endorse and is not responsible or liable for the behavior, features, or content of any Third

       Party Application or Device or for any transaction you may enter into with the provider

       of any such Third Party Applications and Devices, nor does Spotify warrant the

       compatibility or continuing compatibility of the Third Party Applications and Devices

       with the Service (Spotify ToS, 2020).

       The third party application and devices definition in the Spotify’s ToS are not very clear

about why third party devices and platforms have a right to use users data, however, Spotify does

not share any information with application downloading platforms such as the Apple App store.

My understanding from the previously quoted section of the ToS is that Spotify shares users’

data with connected platforms and sells users data to third parties like Linkdn and Facebook.

Spotify’s ToS

Content & Language

  ● Organization of the sections​: The overall content is organized well. Including the table of

     contents at the top of the page increases engagement with each section because it offers

     users structure; if they skip a section they can refer to the table and go back.

  ● Language​: The language of the content is not easily understood by the average user.

     Sentences are usually written with esoteric language and verbosely.

  ● Transparency of the language:​ Definitions are not transparent or easily understood by the

     average user. There are ambiguities in almost every section.

  ● Accessibility of versions in other languages:​ The page offers 101 different language

     options, but Facebook offers 112.

  ● Updates​: The older versions are not available to view in the current ToS page, but the

     date of the most recent update is included. Omitting the older versions creates confusion

     about updates because users need to compare the two versions side by side in order to

     understand what has changed.


  ● Typographical hierarchy:​ The page includes only headers and body text style, but it

     creates enough contrast due to the weight of the body text. Facebook and Linkedn have a

     slightly lighter font choice in their body paragraphs which makes it more legible.

  ● Composition/Layout:​ There is not much open white space outside of the content, so it

     feels imbalanced due to the heavy text weight choice with the long text blocks. In

addition, spacing between each section is tight which makes it difficult and daunting to


   ● Style:​ The ToS page’s typeface style and link color choices match with the overall

       Spotify branding.

   ● User Experience:​ The page is hard to navigate because it requires scrolling to go back to

       the beginning. Also, it is not visually appealing and this decreases engagement.


       Foursquare is a location-based social media platform with more than sixty million

registered and fifty-five million monthly active users (Review41, 2019). According to Wired:

“Tech giants like Facebook and Google—as well as telcos like AT&T, T-Mobile, and

Sprint—are regularly criticized for slurping up information about users' locations and

repurposing it for advertising purposes and other forms of tracking. But one of the biggest names

in location tracking continues to fly under the radar: Foursquare” (Wired, 2019). Foursquare

helps users to explore a city by “checking in” to restaurants, bars, and other physical locations.

The user then competes with their friends to rack up badges and “mayorships.” Foursquare is

different from other social media platforms and tech companies because instead of selling out to

a big company, Foursquare has stayed independent and improved itself. The original social

check-in feature of Foursquare is used by their other app, Swarm. Currently, Foursquare focuses

exclusively on location discovery. Swarm has created a business model by selling

location-related data to other companies instead of selling its users’ data to advertisers. However,

the users’ data is still used for advertising, just in a different way (FastCompany, 2019).

Foursquare’s former CEO Jeff Glueck said that: “Only Facebook and Google rival Foursquare in

terms of data precision” (CNBC, 2018). Foursquare uses all the collected data to help companies

target demographic and interest groups and to determine how advertising campaigns impact

in-store visits and related things (Wired, 2019). When I looked at Foursquare’s ToS, I found the

language difficult to comprehend, but the length of the text is not as long as Facebook’s ToS. It

seems more transparent than Facebook’s ToS because Foursquare uses many bullet points to

divide sentences instead of using longer, more difficult to follow sentences. Overall, the design

of the ToS does not match with the rest of Foursquare’s brand image, but it is still easier to

navigate than many others. Foursquare also offers its users the option to stop sharing their data.

According to Foursquare’s “Do Not Sell My Personal Info”:

       The California Consumer Privacy Act gives California residents the right to direct

       businesses from selling their personal information. If you are not a California resident,

       we may, at our discretion, grant you this right. In order to process your request, we will

       need your Advertising Identifier. If you have directed us to stop selling your personal

       information, we will no longer sell your information to third parties and we will direct

       any third parties which we have sold your personal information to stop further selling

       your information (Foursquare ToS, 2020).

       It is said that the aforementioned functions were exclusively created for California

Residents which means users from other states or countries’ lack the same options to protect

their information. The “Do Not Sell My Personal Info” link can be found in their website footer,

but this link does not exist in other social media platforms. However, many Californian

Foursquare users may not be aware of their privilege when it comes to keeping their data private

on the platform because of the link’s position at the end of the website. Other platforms offer

similar advantages to what Foursquare offers to Califronia Residents, however, Facebook,

Linkedn, and Spotify’s “Do Not Sell My Personal Info” link is not as visible as Foursquare’s.

Foursquare’s ToS

Content & Language

   ● Organization of the sections​: The overall content is not organized well because the page

       does not include a table of contents, and this makes it challenging for users to navigate.

   ● Language​: The content language is not easy to understand by an average user. Sentences

       are usually written with esoteric language and verbosely.

   ● Transparency of language​: The definitions are not transparent or easy to understand by

       the average user.

   ● Accessibility of versions in other languages​: The page includes only twelve language

       options whereas Spotify offers 101 and Faceebook offers 124.

   ● Updates​: The older versions are not available on the current ToS page, however, the page

       includes the date of the most recent update.


   ● Typographical hierarchy:​ The page includes only headers and body text style, but it does

       not create enough contrast due to weight of the body text. Also, the light body text choice

       reduces the overall contrast of the page which makes it less legible.

   ● Composition/Layout:​ There is not much available white space outside of the content, so it

       feels imbalanced due to the long text blocks. In addition, the spacing between each

section is super tight which decreases legibility. Also, headers are located in the middle of

       the two paragraphs, so it is confusing to differentiate the header and the paragraph.

   ● Style:​ The ToS page’s typeface style and link color choices do not match with the overall

       Foursquare brading. Of all the pages I have examined thus far, it is the least pleasing ToS

       page to look at.

   ● User Experience:​ The page is hard to navigate due to the lack of a table of contents and

       the overall placement of the text. It requires scrolling to go back to the beginning. Also, it

       is not visually appealing, and this decreases engagement.


        Ello is a LGBTQ-friendly, anti-advertising, and anti-data collection alternative to social

media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Ello was exclusively created for the creative

community (Guardian, 2014). Ello has nearly 3 million users (TechCrunch, 2017). According to

Vox: “An Ello ‘manifesto’ said the site offered a ‘better way’ than that offered by existing social

networks, on which: every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is

tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more

ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold. We believe there is a better way. We believe in

beauty, simplicity, and transparency. (Vox, 2018). Ello is one of a kind social media platform

today with its data practice and it is still profitable. According to ​Forbes:​ “Ello is operating on

more of a freemium model, where you pay for upgraded features. Advertising is not the only way

to achieve a profitable exit, just the most reliable way to date” (Forbes, 2014). When I looked at

Ello’s ToS, I found that the language is more transparent than other ToS that I have checked so

far. Their ToS starts with “Even though you may feel that reading the Terms of Use of a service

like Ello is a boring waste of time, we highly recommend that you read Ello's Terms of Use

(“Terms”).” This entrance sentence to the ToS encourages readers to continue because they

accept the main idea behind the overall ToS presentation and documentation. The length of the

different sections in ToS is shorter than that of the other ToS examples that I previously

discussed. Overall, the design of the ToS matches Ello's branding. According to their ToS:

        If you haven't uploaded a profile picture or header image within 60 days of creating

        your account, we may remove your account and allow another user to select your

        username. We will send you a warning email before doing so. Also, if you haven't

        logged into your account for 365 days, we may delete your account to make room

        for new users. Again, we will send you a warning email to let you know that your

        account is about to be removed, giving you a chance to log in and keep your account

        (Ello ToS, 2020).

        Social media platforms prioritize having the maximum number of users, and it does not

matter to them if these users are fake or robots. On the contrary to conventional social media

platforms, Ello lives by the maxim quality over quantity; they focus on the credibility of their

users by monitoring their content sharing habits and interactions with others.​ Whereas neither

Facebook nor Linkedin mention anything regarding removing someone’s account due to a year

of inactivity.

Ello’s ToS

Content & Language

● Organization of the sections​: The overall content is not organized well because there is no

     table of contents, and this makes it challenging for users to navigate within the page.

  ● Language​: The content language is esoteric, but the sentences are more concise than the

     previously discussed platforms.

  ● Transparency of language:​ The definitions are more transparent than the other platforms

     in the case study.

  ● Accessibility versions in other languages:​ The page does not include any other language

     options besides English.

  ● Updates​: The older versions are not available to access on the current ToS page, but it

     includes the date of the last update.


  ● Typographical hierarchy:​ The page includes only headers and body text style, however, it

     does not create enough contrast due to the weight of the body text. Ello uses the largest

     size of body text in comparison to the other case studies. Using larger sized text makes

     the page more legible, but there is not much contrast between paragraphs and headers.

  ● Composition/Layout:​ There is plenty of available white space outside of the content, so it

     feels balanced, however, sorted long text blocks decrease the overall legibility.

     In addition, Ello is the first example of a page that includes a photograph. The imagery

     makes the page a bit more approachable than the other ToS.

  ● Style:​ The ToS page’s typeface style and color choices match with the overall Ello


● User Experience:​ The page is hard to navigate due to the lack of a table of contents and

       the overall placement of the text, and it requires scrolling to go back to the beginning.


       WT.Social is another advertising free social media platform that allows users to share

links to articles and discuss them in their news feed. WT.Social was created by Wikipedia’s

co-founder Jimmy Wales and he said: “WT:Social is an effort to combat ‘clickbait.’” WT.Social

monetizes its platforms with a similar business model to Wikipedia, which is based on collected

donations from some of its users to continue the platform without the advertising. According to

Wales: “The business model of social media companies, of pure advertising, is problematic, It

turns out the huge winner is low-quality content” (Financial Times, 2019). WT:Social is open to

everyone, but new users are placed on the waitlist before they can have full access. However,

those who promise to donate $12.99 monthly or $100 annually will be granted instant entrance.

Ello and WT.Social have some similarities; both Platforms do not sell users’ information to

advertisers, and they both chronologically list posts whereas Facebook and Twitter algorithms

make sure that the posts with the most comments or likes are listed at the top (PCMag, 2019).

According to one of Wales’s posts on the platform, titled ​Why inviting friends is important o​ n the

WT.Social site,: “ WT.Social has a very specific goal: to build something healthier than the

existing ad-driven social media which is breaking the world through promotion of low quality

media, radical angry discourse, etc. Not to mention the incredible voracious appetite for our

data” (WT.Social, 2020). When I looked at WT.Social’s ToS, I found that the language is more

transparent than that of other ToS that I have checked thus far. WT.Social’s ToS has many bullet

points to break down the length of the sentences. Overall, the design of the ToS matches

WT.Social’s branding. In addition, the ToS starts with the ​Terms of Use ​which is a user-friendly

in their words “human-readable summary” version of the overall ToS, and this is something that

I have yet to see in another ToS. Another unique approach in their ToS is including an “Overall”

section and according to that part of their ToS:

       These Terms of Use tell you about our public services at WT.social, our relationship to

       you as a user, and the rights and responsibilities that guide us both. We want you to know

       that we host an incredible quantity of news content, all of which is contributed and made

       possible by users like yourself and WT.social staff members. The community – the

       network of users who are constantly building and using WT.social. The community

       contributes to and helps govern our sites. You are welcome to join as a contributor,

       editor, or author, but you should follow the policies that govern each edition of

       WT.Social. In light of this responsibility, we have some rules about what you cannot

       post, most of which is either for your own protection or for the protection of other users

       like yourself. We also include other important notices and disclaimers, so please read

       these Terms of Use in their entirety (WT.Social Terms and Conditions, 2020).

       WT.Social is one of a kind in terms of transparency in its ToS, and, overall, it has all the

positive aspects that I have previously noted in my analysis of other ToS. LinkedIn is the only

platform in the case studies that includes a summary description for each section. None of the

other discussed platforms besides LinkedIn and WT.Social include summaries, both of the ToS

overall or section summaries.

       We appreciate your taking the time to read these Terms of Use, and we are very happy to

       have you contributing to the Projects and using our services. Through your contributions,

       you are helping to build something really big – not only an important collection of

collaboratively edited reference Projects that provides education and information to

       millions who might otherwise lack access, but also a vibrant community of like-minded

       and engaged peers, focused on a very noble goal (WT.Social Terms and Conditions,


        WT.Social is the only of the discussed platforms in the case study to include a thanks

section at the end of their ToS. WT.Social is appreciative to its users for reading its ToS, and

other social media platforms do not end their ToS with this expression of gratitude. Some of

them just say a simple, and almost cold, ‘thank you.’ WT.Social’s behaviour in this regard is

both courageous and authentic.

WT.Social’s ToS

Content & Language

   ● Organization of the sections​: The page lacks a table of contents, but the overall content is

       organized well.

   ● Language​: The content language is less esoteric and sentences are more concise than the

       previously discussed platforms.

   ● Transparency of language​: The definitions are more transparent than those of the other

       platforms in the case study. In addition, including the overall summary of the ToS in the

       top of the page makes it more approachable for average users.

   ● Accessibility versions in other languages:​ The page does not include any other language

       options besides English.

   ● Updates​: The older versions are not available to access in the current ToS page, but it

       includes the date of the last update.

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