Impact model

Open Terms Archive addresses a critical gap in the ability of activists, journalists, researchers, lawmakers and regulators to analyse and influence the rules of online services

Digital platforms hold immense power in forming global information flows, managing personal data and dictating business practices, and thus massively influence societal change. Their power is shaped by the rules set forth in complex and regularly changing documents that define how these platforms operate: terms of service, privacy policies, community guidelines…

These terms often offer unequal rights and opportunities across jurisdictions and increasingly constitute norms designed unilaterally, with little to no democratic oversight. Due to the sheer volume of these documents, the frequency at which they change, and the legalese often used, these critical governing rules remain largely opaque, even to the most dedicated observers.

Open Terms Archive publicly records these terms in different languages and countries several times a day, increasing their readability and highlighting their changes.

Beyond immediate practical usage as a repository of historical terms of service, Open Terms Archive is designed as a tool to steer platform governance towards increased accountability, improved legislation and stronger regulatory compliance. It makes it clear to every service provider that their actions are seen and recorded. It draws the attention of the public on the conditions it gets offered. It shows which actions were effective in changing these conditions. It gathers an ecosystem of potent counter-powers around shared datasets.

Unite to influence

By offering collaborative open source tools and data, Open Terms Archive aims at gathering the forces that are able to push platforms to adopt more loyal behaviour:

  • Regulatory agencies: competition authorities possess the capacity to impose multi-billion-dollar fines and can even prohibit market operations. Data protection authorities in the European Union can enforce penalties relative to an entity’s global revenue under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Legislative authorities: the architects of legislative frameworks like the GDPR, CCPA, and DSA wield substantial influence over business operations within their respective jurisdictions. In some cases, such as for the EU and USA, the impact of legislative acts extends way beyond their geographical borders.
  • Media and press: journalistic reporting on platform behavior can significantly impact a service’s reputation, potentially threatening their user base.
  • Consumer protection associations: by initiating complaints on behalf of users, these organizations can establish legal precedents that deter platforms from indulging in unfair practices. For example, the Schrems I and Schrems II rulings dismantled the legal infrastructure allowing mass transfers of EU citizens’ personal data to the USA, where more lax data protection measures have enabled scandals such as Cambridge Analytica’s.

Open Terms Archive is designed to amplify the capabilities of these influential entities, fostering greater platform integrity and mitigating the exploitation of their vulnerabilities by malign actors. It facilitates the recognition of positive platform changes. It improves the precision and reactiveness to negative changes. It enables targeted legislative drafting. It supports large-scale analysis of regulatory impact.

Focus on domains

Since it increases scrutiny on online services and federates actors, Open Terms Archive data is relevant to any domain related to platform governance. Any entity can use its open data and software to target whichever domain it deems relevant. Within the constraints of its resources, the Open Terms Archive core team focuses on developing tools and partnerships on specific domains that are impactful to its mission and funders:

We are constantly looking for new partners to strengthen our impact on these domains and expand to new ones. If you can contribute funds, analysis capability, tracking suggestions or other forms of partnership, contact us to start collaborating!

Decentralise and federate

Open Terms Archive is a decentralised and federated ecosystem, meaning that anyone can start tracking documents on their own and make them available to others, no matter the target domain. All public collections and tracked documents that match federation quality criteria are counted in the ecosystem size.