We Read 150 Privacy Policies. They Were an Incomprehensible Disaster.

Kevin Litman-Navarro at the New York Times: “….I analyzed the length and readability of privacy policies from nearly 150 popular websites and apps. Facebook’s privacy policy, for example, takes around 18 minutes to read in its entirety – slightly above average for the policies I tested….

Despite efforts like the General Data Protection Regulation to make policies more accessible, there seems to be an intractable tradeoff between a policy’s readability and length. Even policies that are shorter and easier to read can be impenetrable, given the amount of background knowledge required to understand how things like cookies and IP addresses play a role in data collection….

So what might a useful privacy policy look like?

Consumers don’t need a technical understanding of data collection processes in order to protect their personal information. Instead of explaining the excruciatingly complicated inner workings of the data marketplace, privacy policies should help people decide how they want to present themselves online. We tend to go on the internet privately – on our phones or at home – which gives the impression that our activities are also private. But, often, we’re more visible than ever.

A good privacy policy would help users understand how exposed they are: Something as simple as a list of companies that might purchase and use your personal information could go a long way towards setting a new bar for privacy-conscious behavior. For example, if you know that your weather app is constantly tracking your whereabouts and selling your location data as marketing research, you might want to turn off your location services entirely, or find a new app.

Until we reshape privacy policies to meet our needs — or we find a suitable replacement — it’s probably best to act with one rule in mind. To be clear and concise: Someone’s always watching….(More)”.