Terms of Service: The Length of Common Digital Contracts
Do you take the time to read the terms of service before you agree to when downloading the latest app or software?
Of course you do…
The world is awash with apps and internet services that ask potential users to agree to a service agreement. Most people click on ‘agree’ and move on, knowing that reading the service agreements could put them to sleep and defer their favorite internet fix.
Taking inspiration from designer Dima Yarovinsky’s project titled I Agree, today’s post visualizes the length of service agreements, by counting the words and calculating how long it would take users to read each one.
Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That
The average reading speed of most adults is 200 to 250 words per minute (wpm). College students, probably because they are very studious and not skimming, move that pace up to around 300 words per minute. For the sake of this analysis, we calculated reading times based on 240 wpm.
|App/Service||Word Count||How many minutes to read? (240 wpm)|
|Niantic (Pokemon Go)||8,466||35.2|
|Apple (Media Services)||7,314||30.5|
The service agreement for Microsoft stands out at the top of the list with an agreement that would take over an hour to read — a bit less time than it would take to read Shakespeare’s Macbeth. To be fair, this service agreement does seem to cover the company’s entire suite of products.
These agreements are an insight into the legal mumbo jumbo that exists when it comes to regulating the use of these apps. There are a multitude of agreements that go even further into depth about what rules govern developers, online cash transactions and much more. The average American would need to set aside almost 250 hours to properly read all the digital contracts they accept while using online services.
Regardless, users may feel like they are wasting time reviewing a contract that can neither change or refuse—or more vitally, even comprehend.
Not All Text is Equal: The Flesch Reading-Ease Test
Apparently dealing with some of his own textual frustration, a Dr. Rudolf Flesch observed that some text, in particular legal language, appeared to be written to make reading as difficult as humanly possible.
Long sentences filled with arcane words can drag out simple sentences and discourage comprehension. Flesch wanted to measure the variability in reading comprehension — and by studying different kinds of writing, he developed a formula to determine readability and forever scorn lawyers.
In the Flesch Reading-Ease test, higher scores indicate material that is easier to read. Lower numbers mark passages that are more difficult to read. The formula for the Flesch Reading-Ease Score (FRES) test is:
The readability score uses two metrics:
- The numbers of words per sentence
- The number of syllables per word
Based on this score, a text would correspond to a particular education level.
|Score||Grade||Avg. Words per sentence||Syllables per 100 words|
|70.0-60.0||8th and 9th grade||17||147|
|60.0-50.0||10 to 12th grade||21||155|
So how do the service agreements in our sample rank in terms of the Flesch Reading-Ease test?
|App/Service||Flesch Reading Ease Score||Equivalent Grade Level|
|56||10 to 12th grade|
|56||10 to 12th grade|
|54||10 to 12th grade|
|54||10 to 12th grade|
|Microsoft||54||10 to 12th grade|
|Snapchat||54||10 to 12th grade|
|Dropbox||51||10 to 12th grade|
|Apple Media Services||47||College level|
|Niantic (Pokemon Go)||39||College level|
While not the most difficult to read, they definitely include a fair amount of legalese that helps discourage reading. The length and the difficulty of reading these agreements makes them practically useless to the average person.
This is a problem because it undermines basic concepts of contracts and informed consent. Users are giving up their rights without their knowledge.
Terms of Service: You Are the Product
These apps and software are the forefront of the data collection for a multi-billion dollar industry.
Individual user activity and information get easily collected and stored, creating databases of user patterns. This type of behavioral information makes marketers salivate, allowing them target their products to their ideal audience at lower costs than traditional advertising.
Do you know what you have agreed to?
Mapped: How Much Does it Take to be the Top 1% in Each U.S. State?
An annual income anywhere between $360,000-$950,000 can grant entry into the top 1%—depending on where you live in America.
How Much Does it Take to be the Top 1% in Each U.S. State?
There’s an old saying: everyone thinks that they’re middle-class.
But how many people think, or know, that they really belong to the top 1% in the country?
Data from personal finance advisory services company, SmartAsset, reveals the annual income threshold at which a household can be considered part of the top 1% in their state.
Some states demand a much higher yearly earnings from their residents to be a part of the rarefied league, but which ones are they, and how much does one need to earn to make it to the very top echelon of income?
Ranking U.S. States By Income to Be in the Top 1%
At the top of the list, a household in Connecticut needs to earn nearly $953,000 annually to be part of the one-percenters. This is the highest minimum threshold across the country.
In the same region, Massachusetts requires a minimum annual earnings of $903,401 from its top 1% residents.
Here’s the list of all 50 U.S. states along with the annual income needed to be in the 1%.
|Rank||State||Top 1% Income|
|Top 1% Tax Rate
(% of annual income)
California ($844,266), New Jersey ($817,346), and Washington ($804,853) round out the top five states with the highest minimum thresholds to make it to their exclusive rich club.
On the other end of the spectrum, the top one-percenters in West Virginia make a minimum of $367,582 a year, the lowest of all the states, and about one-third of the threshold in Connecticut. And just down southwest of the Mountain State, Mississippi’s one-percenters need to make at least $381,919 a year to qualify for the 1%.
A quick glance at the map above also reveals some regional insights.
The Northeast and West Coast, with their large urban and economic hubs, have higher income entry requirements for the top 1% than states in the American South.
This also correlates to the median income by state, a measure showing Massachusetts households make nearly $90,000 a year, compared to Mississippians who take home $49,000 annually.
How Much Do the Top 1% Pay in Taxes?
Meanwhile, if one does make it to the top 1% in states like Connecticut and Massachusetts, expect to pay more in taxes than other states, according to SmartAsset’s analysis.
The one-percenters in the top five states pay, on average, between 26–28% of their income in tax, compared to those in the bottom five who pay between 21–23%.
And this pattern exists through the dataset, with higher top 1% income thresholds correlating with higher average tax rates for the wealthy.
|State Ranks||Median Tax Rate|
These higher tax rates point to attempts to reign in the increasing wealth disparity in the nation where the top 1% hold more than one-third of the country’s wealth, up from 27% in 1989.
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