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
    Cren Rach, 9 Sep 2008 @ 2:40am

    For many years we have all received "privacy policy" statements in the mail from organizations such as our credit card companies and banks. The first thought, and the mistake that most people make, is to assume that the fact that one has received the policy means that their privacy is being respected.

    However, overwhelmingly what is happening is exactly the opposite - reception of a privacy policy typically means that the company is informing you that as a consumer you are losing privacy - and they're just "warning" you about that so when they disclose your information you will have less grounds to sue them.

    It is a classic corporate "dirty trick".

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