One risk too many people take with software is not reading the End User License Agreement. This is understandable as many agreements are long and complicated. The problem is you may be exposing yourself or your machine to undesirable conditions. There aren't any shortcuts to the review process, but there is a free EULA analyzer software package that can flag interesting items for you in software license agreements or privacy policies.
If you're not familiar with the term EULA, it's an acronym for End User License Agreement. It's a contract you and the software provider enter which covers items ranging from copyrights to liabilities. Because of their complexity, many people accept the agreements without reading them. They want to believe there is nothing bad in the agreement, or in the software.
Some years back, it may have been safe to blindly accept the agreements. Today, more software packages or services infringe on your privacy or may use your PC and bandwidth. Others packages are categorized as ad-sponsored, which often contain clauses about serving advertisements or installing third party items. The result is we may be giving in or giving up in ways we didn't anticipate.
At first, I was a skeptical when I read about EULAlyzer program. After all, how well can a program interpret the terms we see in these software agreements? Then I noticed the same people who created SpyWare Blaster, which is a great tool, publishes EULAlyzer. It then occurred to me that Javacool Software was nicely suited for this task since they see many instances of how spyware and malware are embedded into software and the wording used in those software agreements.
What Info EULAlyzer Shows
Once the text is in the program, you click the Analyze button. The program then provides a high-level summary as well as flagging items. Each flagged item is categorized and given an Interest Score. It's important to realize the program doesn't make any legal interpretation of the agreement, nor does it recommend actions.
Depending on the software agreement, it may not find anything of interest. This was the case with ActiveWords. In other examples, the program presented its finding in discrete groups:
1. Promotional Messages
2. Third Party
4. Website Addresses
6. Privacy: Website Visits
We use several third parties to provide specific content and ads.
The program assigned an Interest Level score of 4 to this item. We included the item in our policy as we use Google AdSense for advertisements. At various times, we have also pulled in virus and security threat information from Symantec and Trend Micro. In retrospect, I can see why this sentence was flagged as we failed to identify which third parties and why they're used. (Of course, people are now going to watch this privacy page to see if I delete the line altogether or be more descriptive.)
A similar Interest Score of 4 was assigned in the Pop-ups group for a different service I visit. If I click to go to the relevant passage, I see the following text:
For example, if a user visits a recipe site we might display a special offer or advertisement for cookware. Depending on which services and applications are used, as well as user preferences, these special offers and advertisements will be displayed using pop-up windows that float over the web pages viewed.
Although both items were assigned the same Interest Level score of 4, I treat them differently. Sorry, but floating pop-up ads and recipes give me indigestion. EULAlyzer isn't making a determination of what is right or wrong. Instead, it's identifying and scoring items it finds interesting. The final determination of accepting the agreement still resides with the user.
Some people may wonder if such a tool can replace the need for reviewing the entire EULA. No. I suspect the folks at Brightfort would agree. The simple reason is there can be other critical items within a EULA that wouldn't be flagged or assigned an Interest Score. One example is the text I highlighted from the Skype EULA. They clearly state emergency calls are not allowed.
Despite my belief that the program shouldn't replace doing a full EULA review, EULAlyzer makes the review process much easier. It jump-starts the process. Previously, I would copy and paste these agreements into Microsoft Word. Using EULAlyzer, I can streamline the process and find those items that usually scare me away from a service sooner, sparing me from reading the rest. If nothing was flagged, I can stay in the package and continue my review.
Although the program has some nice features such as saving these agreements, there were certain areas where I wanted more information. Specifically, there is no online help for users. A URL is provided in the readme.txt file (yes, that's another document most people neglect.) for a knowledgebase, but it didn't have anything yet for the program. I think it would benefit the user if more explanation were provided as to the categorization and terms. After reviewing 29 agreements, I saw 6 distinct groups flagged, but I don't know if there are others. I hope that some documentation can be provided without revealing too much. And yes, I can see the potential for some people to write around some of these rules.
Despite my criticisms, I plan to continue using the software. What it comes down to is EULAlyzer can find problem areas much faster than I could. Regardless if you're a lawyer analyzing the agreement or the typical user who always accepts the terms, you'd benefit from the program. Moreover, if you have a website, you might want to check your own policies. Maybe some of the terms you use are too interesting.
- URL: http://www.brightfort.com/eulalyzer.html
- Cost: Free, donations accepted; Pro Version available with yearly subscription.
- Version Reviewed: 1.0
- Rating: ★★★★☆
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Last Updated (Saturday, 29 September 2012 13:29)