An Extended Investigation of the Similarity Between Privacy Policies of Social Networking Sites as a Precursor for Standardization

Emma Cradock, David Millard, Sophie Stalla-Bourdillon


Privacy policies are unsatisfactory in communicating information to users. Social networking sites (SNS) exemplify this, attracting growing concerns regarding their use of personal data, but lack incentives to improve their policies. Standardization addresses many of these issues, but is only possible if policies share attributes which can be standardized. This investigation assessed the similarity of two attributes (the clauses used and the coverage of forty recommendations made by the UK Information Commissioner) between the privacy policies of the six most frequently visited SNS globally. Similarity was also investigated by looking at whether there were any recommendations all SNS did not address and any themes of information discussed in the policies but not included in the ICO Code. Similarity in the clauses was low, yet similarity in the recommendations covered was high, indicating SNS use different clauses, but to convey similar information. There were a number of ICO Code recommendations which none of the SNS addressed and four themes of information that all six SNS addressed, which were not present in the ICO Code. This paper proposes the policies of SNS already share attributes, indicating the feasibility of standardization and five recommendations are made to begin facilitating this.

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