It would take nearly half a day of non-stop reading to read the privacy policies of the top 16 most downloaded social media apps, which total more than 92,000 words, according to a new study.
On average, social media privacy policies are 6,152 words long and take over 47 minutes to read fully, according to the study which includes platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter among others.
Very few users do read the tech giant’s data policies – only around one in 10, according to Addictivetips.com, which analysed the policies and polled 2,105 people on their attitudes to them.
A clear majority of respondents said privacy policies are too long and they don’t properly understand them. But 83 per cent say they would consent whether they had read the policy or not.
Perilous privacy policies
The results reinforce previous research that shows privacy policies have “become a tool used to manipulate rather than inform”.
Online companies rely on privacy policies to convey their intention to collect and use people’s data and collect their consent to do so. But a growing body of research suggests the bargain is anything but fair for consumers, and in Australia in particular the standard for content is inadequate to protect people’s privacy.
In a submission to the consumer regulator, which is currently investigating the online advertising technology market, the UNSW’s Dr Katharine Kemp outlines the systematic problems with online privacy policies, including how they are exploited by platform giants Google and Facebook, as well as smaller adtechs.
“The trends in privacy policies … make the claims that consumers have consented to the privacy-degrading data practices of the ad tech sector spurious, often disingenuous,” Kemp’s submission states.
“… firms have taken measures to make this data collection less visible, to obfuscate their data practices in opaque privacy policies, to create the illusion of consumer control and choice where little exists, and to circumvent consumers’ attempts to avoid the collection of their personal data and monitoring of their behaviour.”
Addictivetips, an internet and technology user assistance site, says its research shows just how jargon laden and diffuse privacy policies have become.
Cookies, third-party and IP address follow closely behind with 57 per cent, 53 per cent and 46 per cent of users not understanding their meaning respectively.