Hang on just a few more minutes. I know that you’re waiting for me to write this article, but it’s taking me quite a bit of time to do the online research for it.
I’m pretty sure your answer to that question is no. (And, in all honesty, that’s really my answer, too.) And why should you? Web site privacy policies give software EULAs a good run for their money when it comes to length and complexity.
So what’s the solution?
There is always the time-honored solution of more regulation. The FTC already regulates online privacy policies to a small degree, but, for the most part, it is still up to the online companies to determine what’s needed.
There are also technological solutions, and a pretty good one has existed for a while in the form of P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences). P3P has been around for a while and is supported in browsers, but almost no one uses it to vet the privacy policies of sites they visit.
What many representatives of online sites will say is that there is no problem–that the current length and complexity of privacy policies fully protects the privacy of visitors. They will also note that the policies aren’t really there to be read by users. Rather, in posting a policy, a site is legally bound to honor it. (And the FTC has gone after sites that violate the privacy policies they post.)
But the problem here is that the sites and their legal teams get to write these policies, meaning that they usually protect the business wants of the company and its desire to use visitor information while giving the impression that it cares about visitor privacy.
To me, the biggest problem with the whole privacy debate is that U.S. law doesn’t really recognize such a thing as a right to privacy. Until it does, these situations will always be a problem for those concerned about their privacy.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to read all the terms of service of the Web sites I use. I wonder how long that will take?