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Reading privacy policies "would take 20 hours a month"

By Barry Collins

Posted on 9 Oct 2008 at 08:52

It would take nearly a day every month to read the privacy policy of every website you visited, according to new research.

Carnegie Mellon researchers Aleecia McDonald and Lorrie Faith Cranor claim the average privacy policy takes around 10 minutes to read, with some taking as much as 42 minutes.

One "popular site's" privacy policy ran to a staggering 7,669 words or 15 pages of text.

With the average person visiting 119 different websites over the course of a month, it would take nearly 20 hours just to read their privacy policies alone.

The cumbersome length of privacy policies is often cited as the reason they're commonly ignored, and the researchers claim that has a knock-on effect for people's online security. "Internet users likely do not understand the risks to their privacy," the research claims.

They claim websites must do more to make privacy policies easier to read. "If the privacy community can find ways to reduce the time cost of reading policies, it may be easier to convince internet users to do so.

"For example, if we can help people move from needing to read policies word-for-word and only skim policies by providing useful headings, or if we can offer ways to hide all but relevant information and thus reduce the effective length of the policies, more people may be willing to read them," they conclude.

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