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. identicon
    Frosty840, 18 Feb 2009 @ 12:20am

    The privacy policy people want to see is "We don't own your stuff, we won't give away your stuff, we won't sell your stuff and we won't use your stuff."

    Anything more complicated than that is, people assume, cunningly-written legalese for "This looks like we're saying we don't own your stuff, but we really do. Suckers."

    Legalese is pretty much at the point where it's easier to guess what it says without reading it at at all and rely on an "I could not have possibly understood this, I am not a lawyer and I'm not a Swede; you wouldn't be allowed to tell me my rights in Swedish, so nobody should be able to tell me their policies in Legalese and expect me to understand those either" defense.

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