Privacy Policy
A human rights activists wears pink glasses reading "stop spying" during a protest against the alleged violation of privacy by the U.S. National Security Agency at McPherson square in downtown Washington D.C., July 4, 2013. Mladen Antonov—AFP/Getty Images

Half of Americans Don’t Know What a Privacy Policy Is

Dec 04, 2014

It looks like Facebook’s privacy-focused blue dinosaur has some more work to do, as a new survey from the Pew Research Center finds that 52% of American Internet users don’t actually know what a privacy policy is.

A majority of respondents believe that when a company posts a privacy policy, “it ensures that the company keeps confidential all the information it collects on users.” Only 44% of survey respondents knew that answer was false — a privacy policy simply states whatever rules a website has drafted to determine how it will share and use people’s data. Such policies often include fine print that actually make people’s data less private than they might expect, allowing it to be used in ads or handed off to third parties.

With so few people who understand privacy policies, it’s no wonder that a bogus Facebook post proclaiming to protect people’s copyright went viral this week. Users erroneously believed that invoking a specific intellectual property statute would retroactively protect their photos and other media from being used by Facebook. In fact, users already own all the content they put on Facebook, but the social network reserves the right to use that content for activities related to its business. And users all agreed to that stipulation when they accepted—you guessed it—the privacy policy.

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