The cost of reading privacy policies

Companies collect personally identifiable information that website visitors are not always comfortable sharing. One proposed remedy is to use economics rather than legislation to address privacy risks by creating a marketplace for privacy where website visitors would choose to accept or reject offers for small payments in exchange for loss of privacy. The notion of micropayments for privacy has not been realized in practice, perhaps because advertisers might be willing to pay a penny per name and IP address, yet few people would sell their contact information for only a penny. 1 In this paper we contend that the time to read privacy policies is, in and of itself, a form of payment. Instead of receiving payments to reveal information, website visitors must pay with their time to research policies in order to retain their privacy. We pose the question: if website users were to read the privacy policy for each site they visit just once a year, what would their time be worth?