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Privacy Policies Worse than Useless

12/16/14
 
By Ken Magill
 
As if we needed evidence that privacy policies are worse than useless.
 
Most Americans don’t even know what one is, according to the Pew Research Center.
 
In a survey, Pew posed the following true/false question: “When a company posts a privacy policy, it ensures that the company keeps confidential all the information it collects on users.”
 
According to Pew, 52 percent incorrectly answered “true.”
 
This result should surprise no one. Privacy policies have been counterproductive, needlessly resource-sucking endeavors for as long as they have existed.
 
According to Pew, the research was conducted by Joseph Turow, who studies privacy issues at the University of Pennsylvania.
 
“Turow says that several issues contribute to confusion over privacy policies, beginning with the assumptions users make about what it means to have a privacy policy in the first place,” said an article on PewReearch.org. ‘Many people don’t actually read privacy policies; they simply look at the label,’ says Turow. ‘And the intuitive understanding — the cultural understanding — of the label is that when something says ‘privacy policy,’ it protects your privacy.
 
“These misperceptions are enhanced by privacy policies that are often difficult to interpret, even to the small number of consumers who do try to read them, says Turow,” the article continued. “‘Other researchers have found that people do not read privacy policies — they’re unreadable. They are filled with jargon that is meant to be understandable only to the people writing them, or to people who work in the advertising industry today. Words like ‘affiliate’: nobody outside of the digital marketing industry knows what that means.’”
 
No, privacy policies are not written for people in the advertising industry. Not even close. They’re written by lawyers for other lawyers and the bureaucrats in the Federal Trade Commission.
 
The only time a privacy policy ever comes into play is when it is used to put the screws to a company that violates its own published statements.
 
See here, for example.
 
Privacy policies don’t protect anyone from anything. They don’t convey useful information. They’re written in opaque legalese for a reason. They needlessly drain resources that could be put to productive uses.
 
And now we find out they’re giving a little over half of consumers a false impression. Granted, it’s a harmless false impression, but it’s a false impression nonetheless.
 
The entire online privacy movement is an anti-capitalist racket that does nothing but cause harm to the people its advocates claim they are out to protect. 
 
The ecommerce sector would be instantly better off if companies would begin deleting their privacy policies en-masse.
 
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