The Biggest Lie on the Internet: Ignoring the Privacy Policies and Terms of Service Policies of Social Networking Services

Obar, J. A. and Oeldorf-Hirsch, A. The biggest lie on the internet: Ignoring the privacy policies and terms of service policies of social networking services. Information, Communication & Society, pp. 1-20.

TPRC 44: The 44th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2016

37 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2016 Last revised: 15 Aug 2018

Jonathan A. Obar

York University; Quello Center - Michigan State University

Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch

University of Connecticut

Date Written: June 1, 2018

Abstract

This paper addresses ‘the biggest lie on the internet’ with an empirical investigation of privacy policy (PP) and terms of service (TOS) policy reading behavior. An experimental survey (N=543) assessed the extent to which individuals ignored PP and TOS when joining a fictitious social networking service, NameDrop. Results reveal 74% skipped PP, selecting the ‘quick join’ clickwrap. Average adult reading speed (250-280 words per minute), suggests PP should have taken 29-32 minutes and TOS 15-17 minutes to read. For those that didn’t select the clickwrap, average PP reading time was 73 seconds. All participants were presented the TOS and had an average reading time of 51 seconds. Most participants agreed to the policies, 97% to PP and 93% to TOS, with decliners reading PP 30 seconds longer and TOS 90 seconds longer. A regression analysis identifies information overload as a significant negative predictor of reading TOS upon signup, when TOS changes, and when PP changes. Qualitative findings suggest that participants view policies as nuisance, ignoring them to pursue the ends of digital production, without being inhibited by the means. Implications are revealed as 98% missed NameDrop TOS ‘gotcha clauses’ about data sharing with the NSA and employers, and about providing a first-born child as payment for SNS access.

Keywords: Privacy, social media, social network, consent, data privacy, terms of service, privacy policies, clickwrap, EULA, consent, data privacy self-management

Suggested Citation

Obar, Jonathan A. and Oeldorf-Hirsch, Anne, The Biggest Lie on the Internet: Ignoring the Privacy Policies and Terms of Service Policies of Social Networking Services (June 1, 2018). TPRC 44: The 44th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2757465 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2757465

Jonathan A. Obar (Contact Author)

York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada

Quello Center - Michigan State University ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States

Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch

University of Connecticut ( email )

Storrs, CT 06269-1063
United States

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