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Cornell Lab of Ornithology


User Agreement

 A user agreement is the legally enforceable contract between a project and a volunteer who provides natural observations or other data. When a volunteer accepts a project’s user agreement, both the project and the volunteer agree to abide by a project’s legal policies, privacy policies, and terms of use. 


There are two main types of user agreements: clickwrap, and browsewrap.

A clickwrap agreement requires a user to explicitly agree to abide by a set of guidelines, like by clicking a box that says "I agree."  Some websites embed their clickwrap agreements in a form, and require a user to scroll through the entire agreement before they are able to click an “I agree” button. This is a common practice for websites operating in high risk conditions, such as software providers that install new programs on a user’s hard drive. 

For citizen science projects, it is much more common to require users to click a check box with a label such as “I agree to the terms of use.” Often, this is linked to a web page with a project’s terms of use or a privacy policy for that website. For example, The Encyclopedia of Life's clickwrap agreement looks like this:


A browsewrap agreement does not require a user to explicitly agree to abide by a set of guidelines. Rather, a user agrees to the guidelines simply by using the service. Projects that use browsewrap agreements still put their policies on a website for volunteers to read; however, users do not have to click a box or otherwise indicate agreement in order for it to take effect. For example Mountain Watch (governed by the Appalachian Mountain Club, or AMC) describes its browsewrap agreement as: “By using this site, you consent to the collection and use of this information by the AMC.”  

Some legal scholars believe that clickwrap agreements are more likely to hold up in court than browsewrap agreements are. For example, the ruling Hotmail Corporation vs. Van Money Pie Inc. found that the opportunity to review an agreement combined with the condition of clicking “I agree,” was sufficient to indicate legal consent.
For more information, please refer to this data policy primer

Citizen science, volunteer monitoring, participatory action research... this site supports organizers of all initiatives where public participants are involved in scientific research.

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