Let’s Retire the Phrase ‘Privacy Policy’: People assume it means their information will be kept private. Nothing could be further from the truth. by Joseph Turow, professor of communication

True or false:

“When a website has a privacy policy, it means the site will not share my information with other websites or companies without my permission.”

According to my research — a nationally representative phone survey conducted in January and February — a majority of Americans think this is true.

It isn’t. Not even close.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve conducted six national surveys with colleagues about how people see and think about their privacy in both the online and offline worlds. In each survey we’ve included a statement roughly like the one above. The picture is consistent: When people see the phrase “privacy policy,” most assume their information is kept private.

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