Do You Read Privacy Policies? Here Is Why You Should

Computer Security, News

Most users understand very little about how companies manage their data. However, almost every netizen has come across companies’ privacy policies one way or the other. With concerns regarding the privacy and security of personal data rising, it’s all the more critical that we all take the time to read them.

It’s a big-data world we live in nowadays. Frequently, the information about our digital lifestyles is the thing companies need. However, laws require businesses to explain their data management practices. Additionally, they must indicate whether their clients’ data gets shared with third parties. All of this information should be available to you. The question is whether you pay attention to the privacy policies and terms of use documents. In many cases, you might be agreeing to some shady terms.

Data privacy policies: why are they important?

A survey carried out by the Pew Research Center shows that as many as 97% of Americans were approached to give their consent to data privacy policies. However, very few of them (only 9% of the adults surveyed) said they go through company privacy policies before agreeing. With data-sharing becoming the norm over time, consumers need to understand the importance of privacy policies.

A data privacy policy is a legal declaration or document which informs the visitors/clients of how a website/service collects, uses, discloses, and manages data.

The General Data Protection Regulation, formulated in the European Union in 2018, mentions that privacy policies should be written in clear and plain language and presented in a transparent, intelligible, and concise form. Unfortunately, in reality, it certainly isn’t so.

While participating in a New York Times privacy project, Kevin Litman-Navarro went through 150 privacy policies, including those of Airbnb and the BBC. He found out that each of them was unnecessarily lengthy and filled with legal jargon.

Naturally, as a Pew Research Center study shows, most Americans are very concerned about their data security and how it’s shared. Six out of ten Americans said they wanted to do more to protect their privacy. Therefore, you should start educating yourself about privacy policies.

Here’s what You Can Do

To start with, see if the company has a privacy policy in the first place before sharing any personal information, as advised by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. This body that seeks to raise awareness among consumers about the continuous changes in privacy policies. Often, it’s at the bottom of a website where you’ll find the privacy policy or in the app store you download from. These policies should give you an insight into how the company seeks to ensure that your personal information remains secure.

After you locate the privacy policy, see if there’s an option for opting out of having your data shared with third parties. If a service claims to collect your data and share it but makes no mention of an opt-out option, it is a red flag.

A company merely having a privacy policy doesn’t indicate your personal information is kept confidential. Check whether the personal information that the company keeps can be accessed, deleted, or corrected by you. Ensuring transparency is appreciable. Privacy policies give consumers more control over the data they share only if they read and understand them.

However, the chances are that you use a bunch of services without reading the terms you have agreed to during signup. You can limit the number of details companies get to access. For instance, you should provide them with the bare minimum. If a service requires your date of birth, home address, or phone number, do not be hasty to provide this information. If those details are not vital (for instance, an online shop might need your address to deliver goods), do not provide them.

A VPN also protects your online privacy by hiding your browsing history and IP address. It does so by establishing an encrypted connection between your device and the server. Thus, an online VPN prevents IP-based tracking and helps you blend into the crowd for a more anonymous online experience.


Consumers are apprehensive about sharing their data. It’s largely because privacy policies are usually lengthy documents filled with legal jargon that’s difficult for a layman to understand. Companies should take steps to improve their clarity for consumers to build trust. It’s advisable that, as a consumer, you locate the company’s privacy policy and see if there’s an option to opt-out. The authorities as well should step in to make privacy policies easier to understand for consumers removing the ambiguity.  

Tech Digest Correspondent