How often have you signed up to a website, service or app and actually taken the time to read through the Privacy Policy (PP) and/or the Terms of Service (TOS)?

The vast majority of people couldn’t be bothered to pore over line and lines of boring text, so they just hit the OK or Signup button as quickly as possible to get access.

Maybe revealing something we already knew, but it turns out that 98% of people agreed to give up their first-born as payment to access a new social network.

It’s no joke, as the fake network NameDrop was created by University of Connecticut to test that exact thing: if people actually read the text about their privacy and TOS.

The results were released in a study called ‘The biggest lie on the Internet: Ignoring the privacy policies and terms of service policies of social networking services’, and it found almost everyone just glances over the text.

“Qualitative findings further suggest that participants view policies as nuisance, ignoring them to pursue the ends of digital production, without being inhibited by the means. Implications were 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 (social network service) access,” it noted.

The survey revealed that of the 543 people that signed up to the fictitious website, 74% skipped the Privacy Policy (which included the bit about the NSA).

Those who took the time to read through it, really just skimmed the surface of the clauses as well.

“For readers, average PP reading time was 73 seconds, and average TOS reading time was 51 seconds. Based on average adult reading speed (250-280 words per minute), PP should have taken 30 minutes to read, TOS 16 minutes,” it explained.

But it is not people’s eagerness to get into the website that is driving them to skip all the important parts, but rather a case of ‘too much information at once’.

“A regression analysis revealed information overload as a significant negative predictor of reading TOS upon signup, when TOS changes, and when PP changes.”

To keep things in line with regular websites, the TOS text was modified from (and the same length as) that of LinkedIn – the privacy policy was 7 977 words and the terms of service was 4 316 words.

Our advice? Read through the text. You might not end up reading every single word, but something strange might catch your eye in time to save you signing away your first-born.

[Via – Ars Technica, image – CC by 2.0/g4ll4is]


Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.