People assume it means their information will be kept private. Nothing could be further from the truth.
By Joseph Turow | Aug. 20, 2018
True or false:
According to my research — a nationally representative phone survey conducted in January and February — a majority of Americans think this is true.
It isn’t. Not even close.
It’s a misleading label. In reality, these policies explain how companies will use your information — because they are using it.
But Target is not just profiling you based on how you shop with Target. It may also collect what you say on any blogs, chat rooms and social networks you use, and it may obtain “demographic and other information” about you from “third parties.”
You have to assume that Target can purchase any known information about you held by any other company. Not even your body is off limits — cameras in some stores “may use biometrics, including facial recognition,” for theft prevention and security.
Our surveys consistently show that Americans dislike being tracked. Why, then, aren’t Americans more angry and opposed to how often and extensively businesses track them?
One reason: Most Americans don’t read privacy policies, and so they aren’t aware of what is going on.
Fifteen years of research consistently shows that the label is deceptive — depending on the survey, between 54 percent and 73 percent of Americans assume companies won’t share their information without permission.
One solution would be for the F.T.C., which is mandated to police deceptive corporate practices, to rule that only sites and apps that don’t share people’s information without their permission can use that phrase. Otherwise, they should use a more accurate label, such as “how we use your information.”
Companies don’t want people to realize how extensively they use our information and are likely to object to this new, clearer phrasing. Yet it is a struggle worth pursuing in the interest of creating transparency around the name of a document that has been mistitled and misunderstood since its inception.
Joseph Turow is a professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. View article>