Privacy Policies

Have you ever actually read a Privacy Policy? Probably not.  Most likely, when you install a new application, or receive and update to the “Terms and Conditions,” you simply click “OK” or “Accept” and move forward – even slightly perturbed the little popup interrupted your flow.

I think we do this for two reasons: 1) the policy is long and cumbersome and we probably wouldn’t understand it anyway; and 2) what happens if I click “No” or do not agree with the terms?

After a cursory review of several privacy policies (including Facebook and Google), I can tell you the first reason is valid.  Not only is it partially coded in legalese, as a lay consumer, I have no idea the implications of what it’s saying.  So my data may be sold or given for “research purposes.”  What does that mean?  And how will that entity store my data?  Safely, I hope.  The policy says they take securing my data very seriously, but is that true?  Have they sufficiently invested in securing it?

The second reason is an even bigger issue.  If consumers do not agree to the terms, they don’t get access to the service.  On the surface, this may seem simple – if you don’t like it, don’t use it.  But is that realistic?  Some of these huge corporations essentially run, or control access to, the internet.  So, if we deny the terms we’re essentially saying “no thank you” to the internet.  Can we really operate in the 21st century as productive members of society without it?  Seems like our hands are pretty much forced on the issue – we simply must accept the terms so we can participate in modern society.

So what’s the solution?  Well, I don’t know – nor does anyone at this point as its the topic of much debate from large tech companies to domestic and international regulators.  However, I think a good starting point is to give users more options.  Rather than simply accept or reject the terms, users should be able to customize the level of privacy they want.  Facebook is making some decent strides in this direction – you can tailor your profile settings to let anyone or a select group of people see your information.  You can even tailor each post.  However, the problem is you have to go find how to do it.  You don’t get prompted with questions to make you customize your settings.  The default is wide open – it’s up to you to close, or slow, the spigot.  So, either change to default to SUPER PRIVATE, or prompt users to go through the privacy settings before allowing access to the programs so that they have to choose…and explain it to them in a way that’s understandable.

Leave a Comment

Log in