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I tried to read all my app privacy policies. It was 1 million words.

Washington Post – “Let’s abolish reading privacy policies. Here’s how we can use the law and technology to give us real privacy choices. Twitter simplified its privacy policy earlier this month, encouraging us to read it by turning parts into a video game. Yes, a game — it’s called the Twitter Data Dash. In it, you use keyboard arrows to take a dog named Data to the park while dodging cat ads and battling trolls, meanwhile learning about Twitter’s new 4,500-word privacy policy. Okay, who are we kidding: No one has time for that. I applaud Twitter for putting effort into being more understandable. The same goes for Facebook, which last week rewrote its infamous privacy policy to a secondary-school reading level — but also tripled its length to 12,000 words. The deeper I dug into them, the clearer it became that understandability isn’t our biggest privacy problem. Being overwhelmed is. We the users shouldn’t be expected to read and consent to privacy policies. Instead, let’s use the law and technology to give us real privacy choices. And there are some very good ideas for how that could happen. There’s a big little lie at the center of how we use every website, app and gadget. We click “agree,” saying we’ve read the data policy and agree to the terms and conditions. Then, legally speaking, companies can say we’ve given them consent to use our data. In reality, almost nobody actually reads these things and almost nobody feels in control. A 2019 Pew survey found that only 9 percent of Americans say they always read privacy policies. It’s not like you have a choice, anyways. When you’re presented with one of these “agree” buttons, you usually can’t negotiate with their terms. You could decline to use apps or websites — but it’s increasingly hard to participate in the world without them. What’s the harm? You might be clicking away the right to mine the contents of your tax return. Your phone could collect evidence that you’ve sought an abortion in a state where it’s suddenly illegal. Or you could be sharing data that will be used to discriminate against you in job applications or buying a home. Still, I don’t blame anyone whose eyes glaze over when they see a privacy notice. As an experiment, I tallied up all of the privacy policies just for the apps on my phone. It totaled nearly 1 million words. “War and Peace” is about half as long…”

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