Does It Really Matter How Complex Privacy Policies Are?

from the not-really dept

Slashdot points out that a recent study of various privacy policies shows that most are at an extremely high reader level, in some cases ridiculously high. Of course, this is used to suggest that people don't understand the privacy policies they read -- but that's been known for years. But the issue has little to do with the policies themselves, because no one tends to read them, no matter how readable (or not) they are. In fact, many people falsely assume that the very presence of any policy means that their privacy is safe. So, even if a site has a privacy policy that says "you have no privacy, and we'll reveal all your data to whoever pays top dollar," people won't read it and will assume that a site will keep their data private. That's because people assume that any privacy policy means the site takes privacy seriously, even if that's not the case. Given that, it doesn't really matter how readable the privacy policy is, people aren't going to read it and aren't going to pay attention to what it says if they do read it. It seems like privacy policies, in general, are simply a relic of a legal system, rather than anything actually useful. Instead of focusing on the readability of privacy policies, shouldn't we be looking for a better solution altogether?

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  1. identicon
    AS, 9 Sep 2008 @ 1:33am

    Privacy policies, EULAs... It's all legalese and, let's face it, who wants to read legalese unless they're a lawyer, right?

    Recently I've even come across software where you actually had to scroll down to the end of the EULA before the Next button was enabled. Clever trick, but except for the very first time when I was stumped for a good 10mins., now it's just become one more (irritating) step in the routine.

    So while readability does indeed make a difference and following the KISS principle would make it more likely to be read, I'm not too sure what can be done about the fact that we all seem to be in a tearing hurry nowadays for some reason...

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