Techdirt Podcast Episode 41: Privacy Policies Have Nothing To Do With Privacy

from the let's-get-rid-of-them dept

Privacy policies are ubiquitous online, and often required by law, but what are they really for? People don’t read them, and when they do, they have a tendency to misunderstand them — such as with the recent flare-up over poorly-contextualized changes to Spotify’s policy. Plus, there’s a built-in incentive for companies to write their policies as broadly as possible to avoid accidentally violating them, further stripping them of all purpose. This week, we discuss a simple question: are privacy policies an altogether stupid idea?

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Companies: spotify

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Comments on “Techdirt Podcast Episode 41: Privacy Policies Have Nothing To Do With Privacy”

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Mason Wheeler says:

I find the “Nike shoes ad” thing–and many very similar incarnations of targeted advertising, such as books and movies–particularly stupid. If I just bought some goods that will last for several years, pretty much by definition I’m not going to need any more for several years, so therefore I should be one of the lowest-priority targets for further advertising! How do advertisers not get this?

Between the obvious stupidity inherent in so much of it, the “creepy factor,” and the poor psychological signaling that it conveys, it’s no wonder that essentially everyone hates targeted ads. And the name hardly helps either; who wants to be a target?

WRT the concept of private information getting accidentally released due to a bug, have a look at this account of exactly that happening to a programmer just last month. A bug caused this guy who was trying to upload some code to a private GitHub repository to a public repo instead, and it contained a security key. A big mess ensued very quickly.

Anonymous Coward says:

You can’t trust a company either way if they give the control to users , they’ll use legalese to skirt around it .. and since the avg user doesn’t really know how to protect their privacy Companies will take advantage completely systematically and without remorse, as they do now .
What’s needed is a set of tools for available for every user of all technical skill levels and help implementing those tools into everyday life.

IP Lawyer says:

I write privacy policies for a living

I’ve written many.

The documents exist, 100%, to protect the company publishing them. I cannot even conceive of a mindset that thinks these documents serve any other purpose.

They are, in many instances (for instance, California Civil Code Section 1798.83) required by law, and, in many other instances, required by the realities of civil litigation in this country.

The document serves one purpose, and one purpose alone:
To explain to users the uses of their data, put them on notice, and describe under what circumstances users may or may not sue the service for use or misuse of data.

No more, no less.

Granted, I haven’t listened to the podcast – but “are privacy policies altogether a stupid idea” is a useless question. It is a disclaimer, required by law.

While we are in the process of throwing out privacy policies, lets get rid of user manuals and warning labels too, shall we? It’s just as reasonable a proposition.

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