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Privacy Decrypted: How to Read a Privacy Policy


A privacy policy spells out how an organization will use and secure your personal data once they collect it.

However, unless you’re a lawyer or into privacy engineering, you may not understand most of the jargon used in privacy policies. In fact, according to a recent Deloitte survey, 91% of US consumers will click through the user agreement terms without reading them.

A primary reason for skipping privacy policies is that they’re detailed and lengthy. They are also written in hard to understand language.

Nevertheless, it’s essential to read the legal terms provided to understand what happens to your data once you click “I agree.”

And to help you navigate through privacy notices, here’s a guide that can help.

Know What to Look For

Knowing what to look for in a privacy policy can help you skim through it quickly. Some of the crucial information that this document should disclose include:

·         The data collected – A good privacy policy should list the information or categories of data the organization intends to collect

·         How  the data is collected – The policy should specify if the data is collected through cookies or by asking for your details when you’re performing an activity such as placing an order

·         How the data is used – The text should disclose how the organization uses or processes your data. If the information is for other uses other than the completion of your transaction, the company should allow you to opt-out

·         Who has access to the data– Does the company share your data with third parties? The text should specify the service providers, affiliates, or third-party brokers who can access your data.

·         Security measures– The privacy policy should indicate the security measures in place to ensure your data is safe

·         How long will they keep your data – The text should also explain the duration the company intends to retain your data and why

·         Can you review or delete your data? – GDPR, the law that regulates how organizations within the EU  process, use, and store private data states that consumers have a right to access and delete their personal details from websites

Search for Certain Keywords

Many companies are making their privacy policies more user-friendly. For instance, you’ll find that some of this information is structured in layers so that you can read the top layer and expand if you want to get more information.

However, if you’re dealing with lengthy text, you can search for specific keywords that will help you get the most crucial information from the text.

Use the Cmd or the ctrl + F keys to search for words such as:

·         User data

·         Collect

·         Promotion

·         Use

·         Personal information

·         Share

·         Third parties

·         Law enforcement

·         Controls

Look Out For Red Flags

Look out for red flags that show that the company is up to no good. For instance, a website with no privacy statement is a no-no. Without a privacy policy, you won’t know if your data will be secure.

Similarly, a company that uses lots of jargon or confusing language may be doing so to avoid transparency. According to GDPR, privacy policy language should be plain and clear.

Also, check out the publication date of the privacy policy. A more recent policy shows that the company strives to keep up with evolving data security practices.

Additionally, pay close attention to the information in caps or fine print, as it may contain crucial limitations or exceptions.

Now you know how to read even the most complex privacy policies. Hopefully, you’ll no longer click ‘I agree’ without understanding the details of any user agreement.

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