VisibleThread – Language Analysis Platform

How Transparent are Corporate Privacy Statements?

< 1 min read

Fergal McGovern

CEO & Founder

How Transparent are Corporate Privacy Statements

Corporate Privacy Statements are under more scrutiny than ever, especially in light of recent revelations about the NSA’s PRISM surveillance system.

In fact, many companies are so concerned about reputational damage, they have issued specific statements about consumer privacy and transparency, including GoogleFacebookMicrosoft and Apple.

Now, if you want to find out what type of information companies collect about you and how they use it, you need to look deep inside their corporate privacy statement.

Yet, these statements can be completely non-transparent.

By non-transparent, we mean peppered with overly complex and hard to understand language. The upshot is that the average consumer may not realize fully how their private data is used.

So, we looked at the complexity levels in online corporate privacy statements for 5 leading brands (4 of the 5 are banks). We analyzed them with VisibleThread. The question comes down to whether brands want to make it easy for consumers to understand how they use data. The results were revealing.

For example, measuring the amount of dense language (measured as the proportion of long sentences or passive voice) tells you how understandable the policy is. Equally, well-known readability measures such as the Flesch Reading Ease Index highlight complex language.

We scanned these Privacy Statements:

We analyzed the publicly available privacy statement on each site. Most sites had a single page privacy policy (4 out of our sample of 5). The exception was JP Morgan. They split out their cookie policy to a different page here. So we threw that into the mix also.

The results were: