People Don't Read Privacy Policies... But Want Them To Be Clearer

from the sounds-good-to-me dept

We already know that people don't read online privacy policies and often (falsely) assume that if there's any such privacy policy it means their data is safe. There are, of course, even questions as to whether or not a privacy policy is even valid if no one reads it. Still, many consumer and privacy activists continue to act as if the privacy policy is a key aspect of online privacy. In fact, regulators in both the UK and the US seem to be admitting no one reads privacy policies, but demanding they are improved anyway. Specifically, a study done by regulators in the UK shows that 71% of people don't read privacy policies, but 62% want them clearer.

Now, you could make the argument that the reason people don't read privacy policies is because they are too confusing and not at all clear. And, there's something to be said for simplifying privacy policies. To be honest, I'm surprised no one has come up with a Creative Commons-like standard setup for privacy policies (pick and choose a few attributes, have nice images, and make it all clear in a single link). However, it seems to be focused on the wrong issue. It seems likely that the uselessness of privacy policies has a lot more to do with the fact that people don't care (or they don't believe any privacy policy, no matter how clear) or that they think no matter what the privacy policy is, it won't matter once the data is leaked or the company changes its policy. So rather than focusing on creating better privacy policies, shouldn't the focus be on what companies actually do rather than what they say they do?

Filed Under: complexity, privacy, privacy policies


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  1. icon
    Cap'n Jack (profile), 18 Feb 2009 @ 11:30am

    Re:

    "'People Don't Read Privacy Policies... But Want Them To Be Clearer' clearly nonsense since if people didn't read tehm they wouldn't care, but they do care as has been demonstrated often - recently by the latest facebook climb down."

    Hardly anyone read that. A very small amount of people did, took a misleading excerpt and blew it out of proportion all over the blogosphere (do people even use that term anymore...). Basically, most people read a tiny portion of the changes and started freaking out, because they thought Facebook was going to start selling user-content.

    "'In fact, regulators in both the UK and the US seem to be admitting no one reads privacy policies....' also nonsense - ehat they actually said was that 71% did not read or understand privacy policies, not understanding is clearly not the same as not reading, and lets face it even the genius Masnicks don't understand them."

    They're interrelated. You don't read them because they're overly long and difficult to understand. You have to muddle through a bunch of ambiguous garbage to understand any of the basic concepts. I make an effort to skim through them and get what I can, but that's more than I can say for most people I know. I mean, I think it's safe to say most people don't even read instruction manuals unless they're absolutely stuck, and those usually are much easier to read (and often come with pretty pictures!)

    "'...uselessness of privacy policies has a lot more to do with the fact that people don't care..." typical of the Masnicks - big business should be free to do what ever it wants without interference because nobody cares anyway."

    That's not what Mike was saying; you're taking it out of context. It's ironic how you insult his ability to grasp things when you can't even grasp the simple things he's saying. What he's saying is privacy policies are rendered useless when no one cares to navigate through them, or don't trust that the company is going to hold true to the policy anyway.

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