Can We Just Admit That The Idea Of A 'Privacy Policy' Is A Failed Idea?

from the no-one-reads-it,-it's-meaningless dept

At our Insight Dinner Salon on Privacy the other night, I got into a conversation about privacy policies, and how silly the concept has become. At this point, it's commonly accepted that very, very few people ever read a privacy policy. Furthermore, there's this bizarre belief that a privacy policy actually means a company will respect your privacy. Studies have shown that people will say that if a site has a privacy policy, it means that the site will protect their data, even if the policy makes it clear that the site operator can spread your data far and wide. In fact, the incentives are to write a "privacy policy you can't violate," by having it state you can do whatever the hell you want with the data you collect. It's the "best of all worlds," in which users think (incorrectly) they're protected, because a "privacy policy" exists... and the companies who use them can't get in trouble because it says the company can do whatever they want.

So forgive me for not being at all impressed with the Future of Privacy Forum complaining that so many mobile apps have no privacy policy. And things like the following statement don't do the FPF many favors:
FPF believes that a fundamental element of protecting the privacy of consumers using Apps is the availability of a readily-accessible, written privacy policy.
Honestly, this feels like the requirement for a talisman, rather than a deeper look at the actual privacy issues (of which there are many) in the world today. Calling for more privacy policies doesn't really do anything to keep people's data more private. It's just something that can be done in the belief that it must help, even if there's scant evidence to support it.

Filed Under: privacy, privacy policies


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  1. icon
    bdhoro (profile), 26 May 2011 @ 4:16pm

    south park

    I'm assuming you saw the first episode of the this season of south park a few weeks ago featuring the human cent-iPad. I was very happy as an avid reader of this site and a loyal fan of South Park that the entire plot of the episode was based on the fact that nobody reads itunes EULA.

    Basically Steve Jobs wanted to make the most advanced piece of technology possible - an iPad/iPhone that can also read and walk. He sews 3 subjects together from mouth to anus a la The Human Centipede, and attaches an iPhone to the head of the first guy and an iPad on the ass of the last guy.

    But still he is unable to get the device to read his EULA.

    I know, EULA and privacy policy are completely different but I just lump it in with documents that you're told you must read but aren't expected to.

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