You're Better Off Just Assuming You're Not Safe Online

from the waste-of-time dept

It’s no secret that people rarely read privacy policies or assume that if there is a privacy policy, it means their data is safe. However, the latest bit of research points out that privacy policy or not, people have no clue if a site is going to spam them if they give it their email info. Perhaps the reason is that people just don’t care any more. They simply assume that the site will (at some point) spam them, whether or not they promise not to. That’s why so many people have created special “spam” email addresses. It’s just not worth the bother to figure out what a site is actually going to do with your info… especially since it’s likely that they’ll change their policy at some point in the future and you won’t be able to do a damn thing about it. In fact, a separate study apparently shows that sites with a Truste seal of approval are more likely than similar, non-Truste sites to install spyware or send you spam. Basically, you simply can’t trust anyone — especially the sites that tell you you should trust them. So, while it’s also interesting to hear there’s a new service that tries to interpret the fine print, it seems like plenty of people have just found it easier not to care. Of course, that could open up other issues, such as the one court case a few years ago where a judge decided that since no one actually read a privacy policy, a company couldn’t be found liable of violating it. Still, what it comes down to is that individuals will never be good at figuring out if a site is “safe” or not. It could be because of scammers, it could because of confusing language and it could be because policies (and management) change over time. It seems like the best strategy might be to just assume you’re not safe and act accordingly.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “You're Better Off Just Assuming You're Not Safe Online”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
lil bit says:

privacy policy and eulas

Columnist Jon Carroll, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle last week, brought up the subject in an interesting way – confirmed by the judge you mentioned. Should anyone ever try to prosecute me, based on my acceptance of the terms and conditions, privacy policies, or end user legal agreement, I will immediately fight back with the “If they wanted me to read it, they would have written it to be read” defense.

|333473|3|_||3 says:


M$ EULAS are hardly written to be read… they are appaling – has anyone read the Office 2k7 EULA – i didn’t (on th eother hand, I don’t think I have any intenetion of following it anyway, except by happy accident. now the Vista idea of having one disk and loads of keys seems interesting, it reminds me of a game I once had, where in the CFG for the demo it had ‘IsFullVersion = “no”‘ so I changed it to “yes”. If M$ thinks thier idea will work, They should think sagain, although not until i have bought my copy of Home Basic, and upgraded to Ultimate ๐Ÿ˜‰

hoeppner says:

i’ve read quite a few privacy statements, and a surprisingly high amount of them provide clauses to share your data. especially with someone termed as a “partner” with out ever defining what one is. i personally find it very funny to read it.

granted i’m also one of those people who had the same yahoo email for 6-7 years and only recieve 5-6 pieces of spam(that gets through the filter) a week… i wonder what people do to get soo much spam.

bullshizzt says:

bull shit

“had the same yahoo email for 6-7 years and only recieve 5-6 pieces of spam(that gets through the filter) a week”

all I can say is BULLSHIT! no way you get 5-6 pieces of spam per week.

I log into my 7 year old Yahoo account and I find over 2000 spam items… hence why I never use it for anything other than signing up for content these days.

Schellack (user link) says:

You're not safe out in the world, why would you be

If you get that much spam, it’s probably because you’re using that email address of yours for all those p0rn sites.

Privacy policies do tend to say that they’ll share your email address with certain people in certain circumstances. And, yes, hoeppner, they typically don’t define who those “certain people” actually are — probably because those people change.

You can also find, in most privacy policies, something that says that they’ll share your info with the government if required. It’s always been funny to me that they would tell you about sharing your info with the fed, since they’d do it anyways without telling you if “required”.

RoyalPeasantry says:

Go Gmail

Gmail filters has missed exactly 0 true spam to date, and I’ve been using it on all the stupid sites. (Had the account for.. at least 2 years now)

I’m assuming thats because it uses the “spam” button to not only create a personallized spam filter, but a global one as well. Some sort of weighted average based on the number of people who keep the e-mails from some source and the number who spam it. And of course the people who spam and e-mail get thier own personal filter on the people who sent it right away. Plus of course they probably have some sort of AI to deal with headlines. “This kind of headline is spam” vs “This kind is not..” ect..

AKA they’re smarting that yahoo and actually realized that they could use their entire community of users to preform spam filtering for them.

mroonie (user link) says:

Act accordingly?

What exactly do you mean when you say just assume you’re not safe and act accordingly? That can meet a lot of different things to different people. To me it means that people out there aren’t educating themselves about HOW computers and the internet work, and therefore have no idea what “act accordingly” means. To me it means you need to educate yourself about what’s going on behind the screens, on the other side of the story, in order to put up a good defense. To me it means that too many people are looking to generic solutions without finding ones right for themselves or their company….

The more people assume “we’ll never be safe” the more they’ll turn to laziness as a solution….I would promote user education

Duodave (user link) says:

Any given company can be acquired by a dumbass

I always operate on the assumption that at any time, any given company can be bought by another company that will then have my data to do whatever they damn well please with it.

I recently ran into something similar when a company I deal with was bought by another company and sent around emails saying they were “evaluating” accounts.

Your data isn’t safe. Not by a long shot.

Bri says:


You’ve got it, Duodave. I always make the assumption that whatever I say online through any mechanism and especially anything I submit to anyone is no longer private and can be had by anyone whether it is by partnering, cracking of systems, or simple buyouts. We’ve all see consolidation occuring time and again in the industry and more than a few court fights over customer lists during buyouts, so why should we assume that the buyer is going to respect our privacy or even be bound by a prior privacy agreement.

I control my own mail server (with unlimited email accounts) so I psuedo-encode email addresses pretty much by firm/site. It’s always interesting to see who sold me. If they get too irritating and/or the spam slips through the spam filters, I just kill the account. Not that you have to have your own mail server to pull this off what with sites out there offering throw away email addresses and/or filtering today.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...