Open Terms Archive & Scripta Manent


Which contract have I accepted while using a digital service? Have the conditions changed since I have started using these services? In which direction are they evolving? Are they consistent with the public discourse of these actors and the laws that frame their practices?

A simple tool now makes it possible to answer these questions: Open Terms Archive.

The use of any digital service is subject to terms of services (ToS, or Conditions générales d’Utilisation in French), defined as a set of contractual documents that frame the interactions between the service provider and its users.

Large digital companies hold today a central position, enabling them, through their ToS, to transform their practices and values into de facto standards which are at the heart of many aspects of our existence and our economies.

However, while a rigorous understanding of ToS and of how they have evolved over time has become essential to appreciate the practices and loyalties of these digital players, their communication around these ToS is insufficiently clear, regular and readable.

This understanding of ToS is also necessary to ensure that:

  • each user can identify precisely what they have agreed upon, the data they have shared, the rights they have yielded to the services and the rights they have retained;
  • the authorities can verify the compatibility of these contractual frameworks with national and supranational law, in particular when the latter evolve;
  • regulators can assess the efforts of the platforms, but also make sure that they say what they do and that they do what they say. It creates transparency in the practices of digital players, in line with the first recommendations discussed within the framework of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Market Act.

For all these reasons, we have developed the Open Terms Archive which allows you to follow the evolution of the terms of services of the main online service providers by:

  • 1. recording in real time each publication for each new version of the documents;
  • 2. specifically displaying changes applied to documents;
  • 3. having a documentary corpus of their history available.

The operational and terms of use are detailed online.

Open Terms Archive is a free and collaborative software, which means that any entity can contribute to improve it by adding documents and service providers to follow:

  • The TOSBack association transferred its monitoring resources and the documents it had collected. Thanks to this contribution, 367 documents from 174 service providers are monitored to date.
  • The French Ministry of Economy, via the digital regulation expertise center (PEReN), contributes as part of its monitoring of mobile application stores, which has made it possible to develop new functionalities such as the tracking of images and PDF documents.

You can found online a presentation of the Open Terms Archive, first examples of experiments, the API, the available datasets, as well as documentation on the operational and the terms of use.

Open Terms Archive is designed to be enriched and to become a Common on which it will be possible to build many uses: tools for research in comparative law, targeted alerts, linguistic analyses. Contributors are welcome, especially to encourage a larger number of languages and jurisdictions.

As a first use, we have developed Scripta Manent, a first very simple tool which, for 367 contracts, makes it possible to measure all the changes, additions or deletions, between two dates of your choice.

The choice to develop open and collaborative tools, in the service of bringing more transparency, fits into two of the main lines of French digital diplomacy:

  • Embody a European digital sovereignty, that is to say a real strategic autonomy based on a capacity for action and choice: this tool is aimed at empowering citizens, businesses and regulators so that they can freely decide on their practices and their relations with digital players;
  • Build a digital regulatory framework based on multilateral and multi-stakeholder dialogue: the creation of common goods by building strong alliances that bring together all digital stakeholders - States, civil society, private actors - allows for continuous and constructive dialogue around values that we want to carry, and impose, in the digital world.

Feel free to contact us in order to:

  • submit any services or documents that you would like to follow. As a reminder, you can also add documents independently;
  • suggest ways of case studies promotions that could be carried out;
  • ask any questions regarding the use of the tool.

Feel free to seize this resource for your own projects, private or public, including entrepreneurial ones.

Henri Verdier