Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Online Privacy Policies Meaningless If No One Reads Them

from the what-about-EULAs? dept

In a can-of-worms style legal ruling, a judge has dismissed a case against Northwest Airlines concerning how they treated customer info. It's already well known that many web surfers ignore privacy policies or simply assume that, if there's any privacy policy, their info must be safe. However, in this case, the judge ruled that Northwest did not violate its privacy policy in giving out customer info, because there was no evidence anyone actually read the privacy policy! In other words, even if a company has a privacy policy, it doesn't matter, because no one will read it at all. While this (rightfully so) worries many consumer advocates who are now pushing for federal privacy laws, it also opens up other possibilities. Almost no one reads software end user license agreements. In fact, that's one of the reasons why adware is so common - because companies hide the fact that they're installing all sorts of junk on your computer in the EULA. However, if you took this particular ruling and applied it to the EULA, you could conceivably claim that no EULA is valid, because there's no evidence anyone read it either. In the meantime, though, this ruling really just confirms what most people already knew in the first place: most privacy policies are completely meaningless. The only difference is they used to just be meaningless to the company and now they're meaningless under law as well.

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  • identicon
    aNonMooseCowherd, 16 Jun 2004 @ 10:35am

    bad decision

    This is one of the stupidest decisions I have ever heard of. In addition to making no sense logically, the result will be that companies will deliberately make their privacy policies overly long and hard to understand in order to guarantee that no one will read them.

    The joke is that for practical purposes there's no enforcement of privacy policies anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Gary, 16 Jun 2004 @ 12:40pm

      Re: bad decision

      Since most every privacy policy has a "we can change this whenever we like" clause they are worthless. I can agree to terms today that totally protect my info but the terms change tomorrow and my info is now sellable and I have not options to get my data back.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NOBODY, 16 Jun 2004 @ 11:52am

    No Subject Given

    You need to read it before you post Mike. It wasn't void because they didn't read it. It was void because a privacy policy doesn't constitute a contract. Hence the term "policy." If it was binding, it would be the "privacy agreement," or "the privacy contract." It has nothing to do with EULAS. Think people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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