But not all privacy policies are created equal, and some are more important to read closely than others. Particularly when dealing with apps that can access your most personal data, like payment apps, it’s essential to be reading privacy statements at least thoroughly enough to know confidently that our data is safe. And unfortunately, most Americans don’t do that.
Money Crashers recently ran a study and found that over 80% of Americans don’t read the privacy statements of payment apps like PayPal, Venmo, Square, Zelle, etc before signing up to use them. What’s worse, more than half say they don’t even care about the security of these types of apps to begin with!
It’s a common misconception that these well-established programs are more trustworthy and therefore don’t require scrutiny from users. Especially when it feels like “everyone uses it,” we can trick ourselves into letting our guards down, and consequences can be dire: Venmo reported a $40 million loss in fraud reimbursements during the first quarter of 2018 alone!
Here’s what you should be reading for when you skim a privacy statement:
What information the app is collecting
Whether your information will be used for secondary purposes (such as marketing)
Whether your information will be shared with third parties
What the app’s policy is on sharing information with law enforcement
Whether information is protected in all phases of collection and storage
Whether the app allows users to delete their data
Whether the app uses personal information to build user profiles for non-primary use
While reading a privacy statement word-for-word can take 15-20 minutes per document, skimming to find these seven pieces of information should only take a few minutes. And those few minutes could be what stands between you and a fraudster, so it’s well worth it!
Another reason some people don’t read privacy statements is that they don’t understand what privacy statements actually are. A Pew Research Center survey found that more than half of users believe that a privacy statement is a statement confirming that their data is being kept private. That’s not true! A privacy statement merely explains how your data is going to be used — you may read the statement and find the company intends to make your information far more public than you’re comfortable with. You should be reading the privacy statement in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to download the app. According to Money Crashers, less than a third of people have ever decided against using a program due to security concerns!
By investing just a few minutes reading strategically through privacy policies before signing up for services or platforms, you can protect yourself and your data from potentially catastrophic outcomes. In many cases, you may find you’re still willing to use the app but want to disable particular features, which means you’ll be able to gain the benefit of the platform without sacrificing your personal security!