I Used to Give This as a Hypo In Internet Law

Now it’s real:

Boingo Wi-Finder is asking whether it can accept Terms of Service on my behalf. What does this mean?

Boingo Wi-Finder is asking whether it can accept Terms of Service on my behalf. What does this mean?

Boingo Wi-Finder may detect some third party companies operating Wi-Fi networks that may require acceptance to a user agreement, Terms of Service or other click-through contract (“TOS”) before access is granted to their networks. You can use Boingo Wi-Finder to automatically accept these agreements on your behalf.

The first time you use Boingo Wi-Finder at a free hotspot location, you’ll receive a pop-up notification, which will ask whether you want to use the Boingo Wi-Finder tool to automatically connect you to free third party Wi-Fi networks.

If you check the Terms of Service box, Boingo Wi-Finder will automatically accept all Terms of Service agreements on your behalf. Please keep in mind that if you select this option, you (and not Boingo) will assent to the Terms of Service of any third party Wi-Fi providers to which Boingo Wi-Finder connects.

If you prefer to review all Terms of Service agreements yourself, please do not check this box. You will still be able to manually search for third party Wi-Fi networks.

Can you give your software the capacity to validly contract on your behalf? Boingo thinks you can. On the one hand, this makes some sense — you want the fast automated service. But in classical contract terms, is there any meeting of the minds? Is advance agreement to basically anything (subject only to unconsionability?) really valid? Should an implicit term of reasonableness be read in here somewhere?

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3 Responses to I Used to Give This as a Hypo In Internet Law

  1. ruidh says:

    Isn’t this just an ordinary example of limited purpose agency? You authorize Boingo to act as your agent in assenting.

    • MIchael says:

      I guess the entire question may be “how limited”? Can they agree to additional fees? To promises not to use the service to critique the corporate parent? To very invasive tracking and monitoring?

  2. Kaleberg says:

    You’re a lawyer, so you forget that for most people a contract is something generally required for all necessities and luxuries and granted on a take it or leave it basis, subject to arbitrary change in terms and interpretation. Optimistically, I’d guess that maybe for 1 in 100,000 of all contracts entered into in the US do both parties have a clue as to the terms of the contract.

    This may be depressing, but can you imagine the turmoil our society would endure if enforcing a contract required proving that the other party understood the terms when agreeing to it? (Personally, I’d love to see it.)

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