New site helps users comprehend privacy policies

Web users baffled by the often impenetrable language of privacy policies just got an assist to more fully comprehend the risks to their personal privacy as they navigate the web.

The Usable Privacy Project gathered tens of thousands of privacy policies from popular websites, such as Amazon and Google, and distilled the language into a more readable and accessible form. The findings are the culmination of a two-year investigation by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Fordham University and Stanford University.

The website presented more than 20,000 privacy policy annotations for nearly 200 websites, filtering the often verbose language to highlight the most pertinent privacy details found on many of today's websites and mobile apps.

“Our objective is to produce succinct yet informative summaries that can be included in browser plug-ins or interactively conveyed to users by privacy assistants that inform users about salient privacy practices,” said Norman Sadeh, a professor at Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science and the study's lead principal investigator.

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