Ben-Shahar & Chilton Study Finds Simplifying Privacy Disclosures Doesn’t Help

Omri Ben-Shahar and Adam S. Chilton both of Chicago have written Simplification of Privacy Disclosures: An Experimental Test. Here's the abstract:

Simplification of disclosures is widely regarded as an important goal and is increasingly mandated by regulations in a variety of areas of the law. In privacy law, simplification of disclosures is near universally supported. To guide this simplification, various “Best Practices” presentation techniques have been recommended, aimed at transforming privacy notices into clear and accessible information aids for consumers. In addition, some have proposed “Warning Labels” designed to familiarize consumers with only a short list the least expected privacy practices. But do such simplifications actually inform consumers and prevent unwise behavior? Since this question has not been rigorously studied, we conducted a survey experiment designed to test whether simplifying privacy disclosures affects respondents: (1) comprehension of the disclosure; (2) willingness to disclose personal information; and (3) expectations about their privacy rights. Our results reveal that none of the simplification techniques help inform respondents or affect their behavior. They call into further question the wisdom of focusing much regulatory effort on improved disclosures.

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