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Survey: Google, Facebook privacy policies incomprehensible

4/27/2012

The privacy policies of Facebook and Google are harder to understand than credit card agreements or government notices, according to a recent survey done by global branding firm Siegel + Gale.

The firm created a number of comprehension questions based on information in the Facebook and Google policies. Siegel + Gale said a score of 80 would demonstrate "adequate comprehension of a topic." On average, respondents correctly answered 39 percent of the questions related to Facebook's policy and 36 percent of the questions related to Google. That's compared with an average score of 70 percent for comprehension tests on government documents and 68 percent for bank credit card agreements.

Only 20 percent of respondents could comprehend how to prevent third-party websites and applications from accessing Facebook information.

After taking the survey, 75 percent of respondents said they would change their Facebook privacy settings, and 63 percent said they would be more careful about using Google services in the future.

Companies crafting their own privacy policy and terms of use documents might want take note of what Siegel + Gale said should be easily comprehensible in privacy policies: what kind of information is gathered and how it is gathered; how that info is stored and disseminated; how a user can manage privacy settings.

Companies might also want to take a look at Tumblr's privacy policy, which was recently praised by Gizmodo for using straightforward, humorous language.