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Privacy The Internet

20 Hours a Month Reading Privacy Policies 161

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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  • Or maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @11:02AM (#25327871)

    Or maybe people shouldn't submit their data to every website they visit. If they care about their privacy, they had better well read the privacy policy.

    Companies aren't going to dumb-down their policies and open themselves to lawsuits. They are precise and lengthy for a reason.

    In the end it doesn't even matter, though. They all include a clause that lets them change the policy any time they like.

  • Standardization (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FireStormZ ( 1315639 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @11:02AM (#25327877)

    Some group need to write a half dozen or so policies covering a range of options and publish them under a license which *does not* allow them to be used under the same name if any changes are made.

    Who really reads the GPL anymore after you have went through it a few time? the MPL? BSD? If you get somewhere under a dozen options out there you can save *everybody* time..

  • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @11:08AM (#25327967) Homepage Journal

    Creative Commons puts out a variety of licenses that have a simple (human readable) version and a complete (legal) version. A logo or link on a site makes it immediately clear which license is being used. The exact same formula would probably work quite well for privacy policies.

  • by electrictroy ( 912290 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @11:16AM (#25328075)

    It's not the FCC job to regulate anything other than over-the-air radio waves (public property).
    Software, not being radio, is private and NONE of the government's long-nosed business.

    The solution I use is to not bother reading the policies, because I know the companies don't adhere to them. They just sell your info to whoever that want, and do whatever they please (similar to how Bush is eavesdropping on overseas Americans even though he promised he wouldn't). There's no point wasting my time reading a policy that is not enforced.

  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @11:21AM (#25328145)

    A man had a problem and he decided to convince the Goverment to pass a law to help him. Then he had two problems.

  • by Stewie241 ( 1035724 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @11:30AM (#25328233)

    True, but you learn about your rights by reading the license. And, by knowing what the license is, you don't have to worry about the question of whether or not you got it legitimately or not.

  • Brick-and-mortar (Score:2, Insightful)

    by S77IM ( 1371931 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @11:54AM (#25328529)

    I went to a supermarket this morning.

    I didn't need to license the right to walk around and view the "product label prices" content, nor did I need to agree not to sue them for being out of Diet Coke Lime, nor did I need to consent to be monitored by security cameras and have my image stored on tapes.

    Why can't visiting a web site on-line be that simple?

  • by DriedClexler ( 814907 ) on Friday October 10, 2008 @12:20PM (#25328837)

    It's not the FCC job to regulate anything other than over-the-air radio waves (public property).
    Software, not being radio, is private and NONE of the government's long-nosed business.

    Good job. He said FCC (Federal Communications Commission) when he should have said FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and instead of reminding the rest of us what the relevant government agency would be, you took the opportunity to grandstand about his mistake. That really helps the discussion, doesn't it?

    Anyway, I have a hard time seeing how this would be overstepping the government's bounds. It's just setting up a template people are free to use, or not, or use with modifications. Government-endorsed behavior (where it pays people to do something), is not the same thing as government-recognized behavior (where it sets a template to ease communication).

    The worst that would happen is that it biases people into not trusting those who refuse to simplify their TOS into one of the common templates. Good. People should have distrusted long license agreements in the first place. It's the general tolerance of that kind of BS that has pushed people into accepting as commonplace the atrocious practice of agreeing to something you haven't read ... something that in any other context is evidence of coercion.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama