Privacy Policies: The Sage Continues

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The Commons Science and Technology Select Committee have accused social networking firms of having overly long and complex terms and condition, even going so far as to likened them to “engaging with Shakespeare”. Is there anything that can be done to simplify T&C’s? Mark James discusses the issue.

Following on from my blog post about Facebooks new simplified privacy help page, the CSTSC have accused social media, and their respective apps, of being overly complex and lengthy with their Terms and Conditions.

Mark James talks about the problems surrounding T&C’s and how we might be able to overcome them.

“You don’t have a choice”

“The problem with T&C’s has always been around and won’t go away any time soon,” Mark explains.

“The trouble is if you want to run the app or play the game you have to accept them, you don’t have a choice, because of that they become there for only ONE reason: to protect the software writer. They should be there to protect BOTH the writer and the end user.

“The basic answer is “if you want to use our software then these are the rules” making them simpler and easier to understand may well give more people the opportunity to understand exactly what the app is capable of accessing and interacting with but it won’t stop people using the services.

“If you NEED to use Facebook then regardless of what the T&C’s say you will still download and use it.”

“Going to get more complex”

“Online privacy is only going to get more complex to protect companies in the court room but seeing good clear easily understood descriptions of what can be accessed, the reasons for accessing it and what they can do with the data once accessed will go a long way towards making it more user friendly.

“Often in these cases the end user does not fully understand why you need to have access to contacts and photos but once explained with examples it can make a lot more sense.

I’d very much like to see extensive opt in / opt out options in future: for example you might not mind giving your Facebook app access to your photos but you don’t want it to touch your private messages.

As it stands if you disagree with one small aspect of the T&C’s then you either have to deal with it or not use the app/site at all. Disabling certain features in a modular fashion could help this.

Options to deny certain access when installing could help, then if at a later date it needs to be changed, descriptions on how and why in plain English will help the user understand the need for that access.