Thursday, October 9, 2008

Reading Online Privacy Policies

Did you know the average web privacy policy is 2,514 words?  Of course you didn't.  In fact, you don't even read them.  According to research done by Carnegie Mellon's Aleecia McDonald and Lorrie Faith Cranor, it was concluded that if users did in fact read the issued privacy policies for each website they visited just once a year, the time spent reading the lengthy descriptions would actually cost revenue.  During the study on web privacy, the longest privacy note was a whopping 7,669 words, quite a mouthful.  I bet we could all imagine the strenuous technicalities hidden and twisted behind the mini novel.  McDonald and Cranor estimated that the average person would spend at least 200 hours or more sheerly reading these privacy notes.  These hours spent reading, directly impacts the net value lost to the economy.  Along with the average 200 hours, an average of at least $3,000 is lost with each person.  Now imagine $3,000 times the number of users on the web?  That is a lot of money.   

In reality though, nobody reads these notices, so these predictions do not have any real influence in real time.  The correlation between these estimates cannot be applied to today's economic wealth.  To conclude, the point of the article was not to influence people's decision to actually read the privacy policies of web applications, but was to try and create a better connection between privacy and the consumer more applicable.  In other words, companies need to find an easier way for the consumer to read these policies in a manner which wouldn't cost the economy or hundreds of hours of one's annual life.  In my opinion, these long technicalities actually just scare away consumers from reading them, almost as if they are discouraging the right of understanding between the law and consumer.  Something should be done in this day and age where society is supposedly getting technologically more innovated.  

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