The Mystery Behind Privacy Policies

August 2, 2018 / Shamit Patel, Managing Director

The majority of today’s applications, whether they are web or mobile based, offer a seemingly ‘convenient’ option to “connect with Facebook” instead of creating a new profile and log in credentials (because who has time for that, anymore?).  Most people, (myself included), lean towards clicking on the big blue button to save the few minutes of agony to create an account before accessing the perceived benefits that brought them to the website in the first place.  The ethically gray area here is that it becomes really difficult to tell what type of personal information that company is pulling from your Facebook account.  Fox and Royne (2018) conducted a study to understand how much consumers’ actually understand about their privacy policies and what could potentially increase their understanding of it as well as fear of it.  What they found was that when the policy was text-only, consumers were more likely not to understand (or fear) it because of how complex the write-up is.  However, when there are auditory and pictorial cues (ex. Someone reading along while the policy is shown and having graphics that apply to some part of the policy), consumers were more likely to become scared (measured physiologically – which makes this the first study to use self-reporting and a physiological tracker to measure this).

What does this mean for you?

While study doesn’t provide much application with how to apply this to a business setting to increase your customer base or to create happier employees, it does allude to two major suggestions.

  1. If you are going to have a privacy policy, be transparent with your customers.  It’s the ethical thing to do.  Include audio and pictorial cues to your policy so your customers understand the magnitude of clicking on that big blue button to connect with Facebook.

  2. Auditory and visual cues are more powerful than text-only setups.  If you want to communicate something important to your current or target customers, be sure to incorporate these into your marketing strategy while avoiding text only ads.

Thanks for reading,

Shamit Patel


Fox, A. K., & Royne, M. B. (2018). Private Information In A Social World: Assessing Consumers’ Fear And Understanding Of Social Media Privacy [Abstract]. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice,26(1-2), 72-89. doi:10.1080/10696679.2017.1389242