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TLDR Act aims to make website terms of service easier to understand

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers introduce legislation in both the House and Senate.

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has introduced legislation that aims to simplify the often lengthy and complex terms of service that people must agree to before using many online sites and services. 

The Terms-of-service Labeling, Design and Readability Act, or TLDR Act, requires websites and mobile apps to create a "concise, easy to understand" summary of their terms of service that includes information on how personal information is collected and used. 

The TLDR Act was introduced Thursday in the House by Democratic Rep. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts and in the Senate by Sens. Bill Cassidy, a Republican of Louisiana, and Ben Ray Lujan, a Democrat of New Mexico.

"For far too long, blanket terms of service agreements have forced consumers to either 'agree' to all of a company's conditions or lose access to a website or app entirely," Trahan said in a statement. "No negotiation, no alternative, and no real choice."

The lawmakers said the legislation will increase transparency and ensure consumers are informed about how their data is collected and used. Small businesses are exempt from the legislation, which is focused on "unnecessarily complex terms of service agreements," said Trahan.

It's no secret that people often quickly skim or completely skip over terms of service agreements that pop up on websites and apps. The organization Terms of Service; Didn't Read, which has been around since 2012, offers grades and summaries of terms of service agreements found on many popular websites. The lawmakers cited a 2012 study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University that found it would take "76 work days for the average American to read the agreements for technology companies they use."

"TL;DR" -- short for "too long; didn't read" -- is often used before someone summarizes a long piece of writing.  

The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general would enforce the legislation.