OMG! Fitbit, why are your terms so condescending?

With the imminent implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), “data subjects” (= you and me) are being asked to consent to various sets of terms around the use of our personal data. As expected, I have recently received messages from many popular services, asking me to consent to new terms and conditions.

TwitterInstagram, Google, Most of them are

Fitbit’s web site promotes a number of positive values, such as health, fun, empowerment, inspiration, and inclusiveness. You would think that “Respect for others’ would be among them,  but reading .

I’ve just received notice (by e-mail) of the new Terms and Conditions that you would like me to agree to. (

You may not be aware of this, but that document is written in a tone of voice that is very rude and disrespectful. I quote from some of its paragraphs:

“You must accept these Terms to create a Fitbit account and to access or use the Fitbit Service”

“If you do not accept these terms, do not create an account or use the Fitbit Service.”

“You will not use, sublicense…etc.”

To be candid, the statements I have quoted above from that document sound like angry parents talking to naughty children. Statements beginning with “You cannot [do this…]” and “You will not [do that…]” come off as aggressive and confrontational, and totally inconsistent with the value of “Respect for others.”

I am a lawyer, so I understand the need for formality and precision in contractual documents. But there’s no need to be rude.

The irony is that I don’t think this document was meant to sound dictatorial. I suspect that the writers’ intention was to be firm, not disrespectful. I would think that Fitbit is a much more people-friendly place then the writing style would indicate. More likely, the reason the document is worded this way is because the presence or absence of a more respectful tone of voice was not on anyone’s radar at the time.

As the author of the text Respectful Policies and Directives: How to Write Rules that People Want to Follow, perhaps I can help you fix this problem. I would be happy to discuss this issue with members of your organization who are in a position to rewrite these policies in a way that is more representative of its values.