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Privacy Policy Scanner

Because I certainly don't read them.
  (+5, -3)
(+5, -3)
  [vote for,

Whenever you sign up for anything on the internet, before you click submit, there is something like a check box saying that you agree to the site's "privacy policy". From the name of the thing, you'd think that it was a good thing: "oh, it protects my privacy, so I bet they won't sell my information to those pesky spammers". WRONG. For all you know, that policy could guarantee that your information will definitely be sold, because nobody (well, at least almost nobody) bothers to read those things.

So, what I propose is some kind of program, possibly a browser plugin, which can analyze these policies, looking at syntax and keywords which hint that the policy contains something that you probably wouldn't agree to, if you knew it was there. Then, it could report it's findings back to you, with excerpts from where it found dubious or iffy wording, and let you decide. Or for the especially lazy, there could be an option to let the program use its "better judgment" and simply give you a thumbs-up or thumbs-down (a bun or a bone, if you will).

Alternatively, I picture a website, that maintains a database of sites that have privacy policies. People that are good at understanding the policies and/or are paid by the site can write up reviews, and give rankings to the policies of different sites, in addition to a computerized analysis, as described above.

I think that this is a pretty plausible idea, and I hope that it will at some point be baked.

Face, Nov 02 2004

P3P http://www.w3.org/P3P/
the w3c standard. [neilp, Nov 02 2004]

AT&T Privacy Bird http://privacybird.com
Your second paragraph, baked for Internet Explorer. [krelnik, Nov 02 2004]

TRUSTe http://www.truste.com
Close to what you describe in your third paragraph. [krelnik, Nov 02 2004]


       [Face] I'm sure I read about exactly this sort of thing recently, but I can't remember where. Internet Explorer (of all things) does help in the process for sites with a published privacy policy (see link).

P.S. analyzation = analysis.
neilp, Nov 02 2004

       Yes, neilp nailed it with his link--this is baked. If you use Internet Explorer, download Privacy Bird, it is almost exactly what you describe in your second paragraph.
krelnik, Nov 02 2004

       Well, those links are are all good and useful, however, they do not solve the problem, if you think about it.   

       P3P only is available on sites that make it available. If you are making a site with a dubious privacy policy, you most likely wouldn't enable p3p on your site. Additionally,there isn't a huge amount of sites that have p3p anyway.   

       Also, TRUSTe is optional as well. Although there is no reason why a site wouldn't use TRUSTe if it had a good policy, they easily could just not have it.
Face, Nov 02 2004

       If you have a dubious policy, why post one at all?
krelnik, Nov 02 2004

       Would probably work because legalese is very controlled english. What about a system that highlights important or suspicious phrases for you to review?
-----, Nov 03 2004

       Oh no, I accidentally deleted the last annotation...if that was yours, I am sorry, and feel free to re-annotate.
Face, Nov 06 2004


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