It is the rare person who reads through entire privacy policies. According to Carnegie Mellon researchers, reading all the privacy policies encountered in a year would take 76 work days. The Facebook fine print is a good example.
In the US Congressional hearings held in the wake of the recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data debacle, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) noted that Facebook’s “terms of service document is more than 3,200 words long and includes 30 links to supplemental documents.” The company’s “data policy is another 2,700 words and includes more than 20 links” and “people really have no earthly idea of what they’re signing up for.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg conceded that it is unlikely that the average user reads Facebook’s entire terms of service document, thus putting into question the validity of ‘informed consent’.
But agreeing to terms without fully understanding them is not uncommon. And it’s not only computer users who ought to invest the time to read privacy policies and terms of service.
Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, told a UK parliamentary committee that “while Facebook requires that app developers “have a terms and conditions” associated with their services” Facebook failed to read it in its entirely.
The admission was corroborated by Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University researcher who created the app that collected the data of millions of Facebook users for Cambridge Analytica, who told the parliamentary committee that “Facebook did not look at its terms of services until after a report surfaced in media.”
The entire data debacle has been an awakening for people around the globe, who are starting to appreciate the importance of taking the time to read and understand the fine print — in its entirety — before clicking ‘I Agree’.