While the concerns about the security of Pokemon Go users’ private information last week appear to have been over-hyped, the flap illustrated how little users of mobile apps and websites know about what’s in the terms to which they’ve agreed.
A recent working paper, “The Biggest Lie on the Internet,” from professors at Michigan State and the University of Connecticut, finds that the vast majority of adults don’t read such terms.
“Fourteen seconds is hardly enough time to read, understand and provide informed consent to policies between 4,000 and 8,0000 words in length,” researchers wrote. “Spending 14 seconds (or 60 seconds for that matter) is akin to not reading the policies at all.”
The study showed how easy it is for companies to get consumers to agree to potentially problematic terms. Survey participants missed the “gotcha” clauses researchers hidden in the text, including the promise give-up their first-born child to the site. Fewer than 2 percent of study participants questioned that clause, and 100 percent of them agreed to both policies.