Privacy policies of popular websites have most captivated the media and the public’s attention.

Google’s privacy policy has caused the most controversy given its internet prowess and suspicious practices and processing of personal data. The general trend is that Europe is more sensitive to breaches of online privacy, but the United States is able to levy larger penalties. For example, Google agreed to pay 17 million dollars to the US government for its controversial use of HTTP Form POST functionality that uses JavaScript to submit a form without affirmative user action for the purpose of overriding a Browser’s Cookie-blocking setting.

This places an HTTP Cookie on the Browser without the user’s consent. Other practices include how Google uses the same privacy policy for all its services without the users’ consent. There is a general concern over the lack of transparency in the handling of large quantities of personal data. Both the United States and Europe believe that privacy of its citizens is moral right that should be protected. The United States conferred the Attorney General with powers to enforce the terms of Compliance Agreement between Google and the 50 states following the HTTP dispute. In Germany, Google was fined 145,000 euros for collection of data from home WiFi Networks by GoogleStreet View cars. Critics have noted that neither fines are able to effectively deter improper behavior given Google’s wealth.

In the UK, the ICO is investigating whether Google’s privacy policy complies with its data protection act. Other technology companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, and Instagram that handle a great deal of personal data are under similar scrutiny. Recently, Instagram started to host ads on its website, and it changed its privacy policy and terms allowing advertisers to use photos and data of users without any compensation.

However, after user backlash over the change, the founder made statements that it is not their intention to sell users’ photographs or to use photos in advertisements, but the change still bodes uncertainty. Recent report from Deloitte finds that only about 26% of users read privacy policies, which are often so long that it would take about 250 hours every year for the average person to read all the privacy policies of all websites they visit’s equivalent to 781 billion cost in internet users’ time. Along those lines, about 22 percent of consumers are confident that companies do not sell their personal details without their knowledge, and only 24 percent are confident that companies inform them of how the data is being used.

 

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