In the wake of the global health pandemic, one thing is certain: When all else fails, people can turn to the internet. Websites including Facebook, YouTube, and the streaming platform Netflix have seen unprecedented increases in traffic in the weeks and months since COVID-19 became a life-changing situation for many Americans. But COVID-19 isn’t just changing the way we use the internet, it’s changing the way we think about digital security online, on our phones, and in the apps, we use on a constant basis.
But while major providers, including Google and Apple, are making digital privacy a priority in these challenging times, do users have the same concerns? Better yet, do users understand privacy policies they’ve agreed to for many of their apps in the first place?
That’s exactly the question Security.org asked over 1,000 users in a survey that compared what users know about the privacy policies they accept to what’s actually written in the privacy policies of over 450 apps. How many people are reading them, and are they really worried about the data they might be giving away?
Complicated Privacy Agreements
Among the more than 450 privacy policies analyzed, the average free app used language at a grade 15 reading level (college undergraduate), while paid apps were only slightly less complicated – a grade 14 on average. For comparison’s sake, the average article from The New York Times reads at an 11th-grade level, and Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” reads at a 10th-grade level.
The most complicated privacy policies (based on the reading level they were written at) were found in business apps, weather apps, and travel apps – all grade 15. Processing what they say is one thing, but you have to be willing to commit the time to read them in the first place in order to understand what you agree too.
Increased Difficulty To Read
More than half of users (59%) agreed people shouldn’t be held responsible for what’s in their privacy policies when they’re written at a grade level someone can’t understand. Roughly 39% of users agreed privacy policies should be written at a high school level, while 35% believe they shouldn’t exceed a middle school reading level.
When asked why they didn’t read their own privacy policies in full, 94% of users indicated they were too long, and 74% said the language was too complicated or difficult to understand. Just 15% of users said they didn’t read the privacy policies attached to their technology because they trusted the app or website to respect their privacy.
More than anything else, users were uncomfortable with the idea of apps having access to their contacts (79%), followed by photos (73%), health data (69%), and home data (67%). Roughly 7 in 10 Instagram users said they were uncomfortable with other apps having access to their photographs.
Still, 79% of users also believe apps and websites probably share their data with third-party companies (which many do) even though more than 90% think apps shouldn’t be able to do this without their consent.
If you are interested in even more apps-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels, then we have a lot to choose from.