This week, amid all the hype around the Google’s Chrome browser, there was a mini-controversy over the EULA that came with Google’s new toy. The EULA, required users to “give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and nonexclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”
That sounded ominous to many users — why should Google have a right to do whatever it wants with what you do when using Chrome? As it turns out, Google reuses its EULA language as much as possible, and so occasionally stuff will sneak in that doesn’t really apply. Google quickly responded and changed the offending text, which now reads, “You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.”
The “controversy” highlights something important, though: the text of things like EULA’s and privacy policies are necessary for users to read but often times they are so long and difficult to comprehend that they are more likely to be skipped over. To be fair, Google’s Chrome EULA actually rates as one of the easiest to comprehend, but it is still lengthy — weighing in at over 4,000 words — or about 10 pages in Times New Roman 12 point. It’s unlikely that most users would ever read it, and the offending text only came to light after a tech journalists noticed it (i.e., not your average users).
Erik Sherman over at BNet decided to see just how easy the tech legal documents we encounter every day are to read and understand. Sherman looked at 23 tech company privacy policies and graded them on a scale that went from 0-19+. The following chart shows comparable reading material by score so you can judge approximately what it would be like to read these policy documents.
|SMOG Grade Level||Reading Material Example|
|0-6||Soap Opera Weekly|
|8||Ladies Home Journal|
|13-15||New York Times|
|17-18||Harvard Business Review|
Josh Catone joined Mashable in May 2009 and is Executive Director of Editorial Projects. Before joining Mashable, Josh was the Lead Writer at ReadWriteWeb, the Lead Blogger at SitePoint, and the Community Evangelist at DandyID.