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Survey Finds Facebook and Google Privacy Policies Even More Confusing Than Credit Card Bills and Government Notices

NEW YORK April 24, 2012 Siegel+Gale

After reviewing the policies and answering questions through the Siegel+Gale SimplicityLab™, a proprietary quantitative research tool, many respondents said they might reduce the amount of information they give to Facebook and Google. Thirty-six percent of Facebook respondents and 37 percent of Google respondents said they would change their online behavior by using these sites less, adjusting their privacy settings and clearing their search histories.

Despite Google’s recent consolidation of its various privacy policies, survey respondents expressed more discomfort after reading the new, condensed policy. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they feel less comfortable with how Google collects and stores information about user activities than they do with Facebook’s practices.

Key findings include:

  • Google and Facebook privacy policies are more confusing to users than credit card agreements and government notices. In similar studies, on average, 70 percent of respondents correctly answered comprehension questions for government notices and 68 percent of respondents provided the right answers for credit card agreements, far more than the percent of readers who correctly answered questions about Facebook’s and Google’s privacy policies.
  • After reading the privacy policies, 47 percent of respondents felt less comfortable with how Google collects and stores information about activity. Only 33 percent of Facebook users felt comfortable.


  • A major comprehension issue is requiring users to use an Application Programming Interface (API) to understand how their information is used. Less than 40 percent of Facebook users understood how an API can be used to access and view public information.
  • Only 15 percent of users correctly understood what happens to their accounts after they’re deleted on Facebook.
  • Just 20 percent of respondents could correctly identify how to block outside applications and websites from accessing their information on Facebook.


  • Twenty-three percent of Google users understood that their profile is visible to anyone online.
  • More than half of Google users interviewed were not aware that the privacy policy also applied to their use of Google Talk, Google Maps, YouTube and Blogger.
  • Only 38 percent understood that Google connects search activity to a user’s IP address whether or not they sign into a Google account.

Thomas Mueller

Irene Etzkorn

Siegel+Gale suggests Facebook and Google can improve online privacy policy documents by:

  • Succinctly conveying what information is collected, how the information is stored and shared, and how a user can manage their privacy
  • Standardizing policies so that users can more easily understand privacy implications.
  • Designing a feedback loop into digital interfaces.
  • Allowing users to opt in to share and publicize information.

Mr. Mueller added, "It’s time for these online giants to recognize that their policies bring an unacceptable web of complexity and risk to the lives of their users. The lack of understanding of online privacy is pervasive. Bringing greater simplicity to what web users read online will engender trust among users and only benefit Facebook’s and Google’s reputation."

About SimplicityLab


SimplicityLab diagnoses the effectiveness of a given brand touchpoint (e.g., customer communications) against an index based on two key dimensions—purpose and perception. The methodology includes a quantitative, online survey tool featuring a highly visual interface that engages respondents and provides maximum flexibility to test items in simulated, real-life situations.

About Siegel+Gale

Siegel+Gale Simple is Smart

Alan Siegel New York Los Angeles San Francisco London Hamburg Dubai Shanghai Beijing


Maria Martinez

[email protected]

SOURCE Siegel+Gale

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