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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    Allen (profile), 9 Sep 2008 @ 2:21am

    It might be nice if they were intended to inform the user first but,

    I think that most privacy policies are written to cover the website owner's @rse first and inform their hapless audience second.

    It doesn't matter how complex they are as long as it helps some judge to decide that X did enough to inform the user that X was selling email addresses to the highest bidder.

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