Most people don’t understand privacy, and that’s a huge opportunity for design


New research highlights just how clueless we are when it comes to digital privacy. It’s time for companies to step up and fill in the gaps.

Nobody reads privacy policies before joining a platform like Facebook or Google. They constitute thousands of words of legalese, a construction that literally requires a law degree to parse and begin to understand. It’s frightening to consider that most of us are signing away our rights when we click “accept” on those terms and conditions.

But you know what’s even worse? About half of Americans don’t even recognize that privacy policies are a binding contract between websites and their users in the first place.

The findings come courtesy of a new report by Pew Research, which polled 4,727 U.S. adults with a straightforward, 10-question test. It checked for basic knowledge about phishing, online advertising, and cookies. Only 20% of people answered 7 of 10 questions correctly. Just as devastating? Only 2% of people got all 10 questions right.

One of the questions that was answered incorrectly most often was “Privacy policies are contracts between websites and users about how those sites will use their data.” That’s a big one! Twenty-five percent of respondents answered incorrectly, and another 27% weren’t sure. It’s simply crazy to comprehend that half of America doesn’t even realize they’re entering a legal contract when tapping away at that text, a contract which typically signs away all sorts of personal privacy rights.

The least-understood question, however, was about protecting your privacy from hackers. Fifty-five percent of people couldn’t identify an example of (…)



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