I tried to read all my app privacy policies. It was 1 million words.

Article by Geoffrey A. Fowler: “…So here’s an idea: Let’s abolish the notion that we’re supposed to read privacy policies.

I’m not suggesting companies shouldn’t have to explain what they’re up to. Maybe we call them “data disclosures” for the regulators, lawyers, investigative journalists and curious consumers to pore over.

But to protect our privacy, the best place to start is for companies to simply collect less data. “Maybe don’t do things that need a million words of explanation? Do it differently,” said Slaughter. “You can’t abuse, misuse, leverage data that you haven’t collected in the first place.”

Apps and services should only collect the information they really need to provide that service — unless we opt in to let them collect more, and it’s truly an option.

I’m not holding my breath that companies will do that voluntarily, but a federal privacy law would help. While we wait for one, Slaughter said the FTC (where Democratic commissioners recently gained a majority) is thinking about how to use its existing authority “to pursue practices — including data collection, use and misuse — that are unfair to users.”

Second, we need to replace the theater of pressing “agree” with real choices about our privacy.

Today, when we do have choices to make, companies often present them in ways that pressure us into making the worst decisions for ourselves.

Apps and websites should give us the relevant information and our choices in the moment when it matters. Twitter actually does this just-in-time notice better than many other apps and websites: By default, it doesn’t collect your exact location, and only prompts you to do so when you ask to tag your location in a tweet.

Even better, technology could help us manage our choices. Cranor suggests that data disclosures could be coded to be read by machines. Companies already do this for financial information, and the TLDR Act would require consistent tags on privacy information, too. Then your computer could act kind of like a butler, interacting with apps and websites on your behalf.

Picture Siri as a butler who quizzes you briefly about your preferences and then does your bidding. The privacy settings on an iPhone already let you tell all the different apps on your phone not to collect your location. For the past year, they’ve also allowed you to ask apps not to track you.

Web browsers could serve as privacy butlers, too. Mozilla’s Firefox already lets you block certain kinds of privacy invasions. Now a new technology called the Global Privacy Control is emerging that would interact with websites and instruct them not to “sell” our data. It’s grounded in California’s privacy law, which is among the toughest in the nation, though it remains to be seen how the state will enforce GPC…(More)”.