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Privacy The Internet

20 Hours a Month Reading Privacy Policies 161

Posted by kdawson
from the half-the-bailout-every-year dept.
Barence sends word of research out of Carnegie Mellon University calling for changes in the way Web sites present privacy policies. The researchers, one of whom is an EFF board member, calculated how long it would take the average user to read through the privacy policies of the sites visited in a year. The answer: 200 hours, at a hypothetical cost to the US economy of $365 billion, more than half the financial bailout package. Every year. The researchers propose that, if the industry can't make privacy policies easier to read or skim, then federal intervention may be needed. This resulted in the predictable cry of outrage from online executives. Here's the study (PDF).
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20 Hours a Month Reading Privacy Policies

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  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Friday October 10, 2008 @10:07AM (#25327945) Homepage

    Wasn't that the idea behind P3P [wikipedia.org]

  • by digitig (1056110) on Friday October 10, 2008 @11:05AM (#25328661)

    But nobody was proposing that they regulate anything new. The proposal was that they make a set of standard licenses available, not that they enforce them.

  • Re:fp (Score:2, Informative)

    by alexborges (313924) on Friday October 10, 2008 @11:39AM (#25329075)

    Ozphx makes a well balanced critique of the Cowards work.

    A must read, two thumbs up.

  • by gg9973 (1382401) on Friday October 10, 2008 @12:02PM (#25329435)
    I recently signed up on a website which required me to first accept a license agreement. I have the odd habit of actually reading the agreements before I accept them. When I clicked the link for the license agreement, I was presented with the following text:

    "End User License Agreement
    EndUserAgreementText"

    Well, at least I guess there is no significant legal risk in accepting it.

    I sent a mail asking if they could not simply remove the license agreement, since it was even clearer than usual that it did not serve any useful purpose. To my surprise, they actually took the time to write a personal reply and explain why they needed to have it. Apparently, the original text was lost in a site update.

    According to their mail, over 2000 new users had joined since the text was lost, and I was the first one to notice. I'm not sure how much legal weight these agreements actually have.

  • by Aram Fingal (576822) on Friday October 10, 2008 @12:38PM (#25329917)
    Back in the Clinton administration, the FTC tried to set a precedent for enforcement of privacy policies with the case of Toysmart.com. Toysmart.com went bankrupt and a judge ruled that they could sell their customer database in violation of their own privacy policy to settle debt. The Clinton administration tried to reverse the decision on appeal but the case went on after Clinton left office and Bush came in.

    The Bush administration tried to broker a compromise allowing Toysmart.com to sell their database as long as it was to a company in the same industry. One of the shareholders in Toysmart.com didn't want to be responsible for that decision so he bought the database himself and destroyed it. No precedent was set and the Bush administration hasn't tried to prosecute anyone for violation of privacy policy since.

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