How to Read a Privacy Policy

A New York-based non-profit known as the Common Data Project has published a report about the privacy policies of major Internet sites such as Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Craigslist:

“We realize that most users of online services have not and never will read the privacy policies so carefully crafted by teams of lawyers at Google and Microsoft.”

“And having read all of these documents (many times over), we’re not convinced that anyone should read them, other than to confirm what you probably already know: A lot of data is being collected about you, and it’s not really clear who gets to use that data, for what purpose, for how long, or whether any or all of it can eventually be connected back to you.”

“Yet people continue to use Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and more without giving much thought to the privacy implications of giving up their data to these companies.”

[Source: Special Info & Musings for Ottawa Information Professionals]


  1. The amount and nature of the data collected about people is shocking.

    In my opinion certain clauses in end user license agreement contracts are worthless in ensuring that users’ privacy will be protected. Even if Google or some other provider of “free” software commits flagrant violations of their own privacy policies, what could any claimant expect to receive as damages? These are contracts and punitive damages are generally not available as a contract law remedy. The software is free – does the user get a refund of $0 if s/he can prove breach?

    If Microsoft lays bare the entire contents of someone’s hotmail account and 1) ruins that person’s marriage, 2) exposes them to a defamation suit for disseminating nasty comments about someone, and 3) makes public a raft of rather embarrassing purchases of goods or services, what recourse does that person have?

  2. Jeong Chun phuoc

    “Clash of Privacy Rights and Unfair Contractual Advantage”

    The majority of all commercial privacy policies are drafted with a view to preserve the sole commercial interest of major commercial/corporate entities to the privacy disadvantage of consumerism.

    It is unconscionable to permit contractual manipulation to acquire commercial advantage to the disadvantage of the consumers who are always placed in an unfair position, and having no recourse in the protection of privacy rights to obtain a fair,equitable and expeditious remedy.

    Current online privacy legislations must be relooked into to minimise/avert the clash of unfair contractual rights vis-a-vis privacy rights in the E-world of conflict of laws paradigm.

    Jeong Chun phuoc