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
    Steve R. (profile), 26 May 2011 @ 2:47pm

    Intuit's Cumbersome Privacy Policy

    I have issues with Intuit. Intuit for one requires that you buy a new version of Quicken every three years. TurboTax, obviously has to be bought every year. Each of these programs has the link so that you can opt-out.

    Well, by the way it is structured, Intuit makes it complicated for the consumer to opt-out. First when when updating/upgrading there is NO indication that your prior privacy selection would remain in effect. Strike 1.

    Second, when opting out, you have to re-enter all the information that you previously entered (from the act of registration and from prior years). Strike 2.

    Third, when you opt out there is a confusing message concerning whether you would continue to actually receive valid program updates. I assume that Intuit wants you to believe that by opting out of marketing junk mail that you would no longer receive program updates. Strike 3.

    Computers are supposed to make live easier by eliminating the necessity to re-certify your preferences and by eliminating the need to re-enter duplicate data. I assume that Intuit is abusing computer technology in the hopes that people won't re-certify their decision to opt-out.

    On the positive side, I have not been receiving any spam from Intuit.

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