Privacy policies as decision-making tools: An evaluation of online privacy notices

Studies have repeatedly shown that users are increasingly concerned about their privacy when they go online. In response to both public interest and regulatory pressures, privacy policies have become almost ubiquitous. An estimated 77% of websites now post a privacy policy. These policies differ greatly from site to site, and often address issues that are different from those that users care about. They are in most cases the users’ only source of information. This paper evaluates the usability of online privacy policies, as well as the practice of posting them. We analyze 64 current privacy policies, their accessibility, writing, content and evolution over time. We examine how well these policies meet user needs and how they can be improved. We determine that significant changes need to be made to current practice to meet regulatory and usability requirements.