December 08, 2011 09:00 ET

New TRUSTe Privacy Index Shows Online Privacy Policies Are Lengthy, Complicated and Reveal Alarming Trends

TRUSTe Analyzes Privacy Policies of Top 100 U.S. Websites; Launches New "Privacy Pulse" Information Series to Track Changes and Trends in Online Privacy

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - Dec 8, 2011) - TRUSTe, the leading online privacy solutions provider, today released its first privacy index as part of its new "Privacy Pulse" information series tracking changes and trends in online privacy. In the 2011 Website Edition of its Privacy Index, TRUSTe analyzed the privacy policies of the top 100 U.S. websites (as ranked by Alexa Sept. 2011) to evaluate privacy practices by measuring key policy attributes, as well as the type of disclosures contained in them. TRUSTe found that while nearly 100 percent of websites today include a privacy policy, existing policies are highly complex, lengthy and written in language that is confusing for the average person to understand. Additionally, the vast majority of privacy policies are not readily transparent regarding third-party usage of data or consumer choices.

"Clearly, more work needs to be done to deliver shorter, more accessible privacy policies that can be quickly and easily understood by consumers, so that they have the ability to make choices regarding the sharing of their personal information," said Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe. "By releasing this first privacy index and launching our new 'Privacy Pulse' information series, TRUSTe is dedicating its substantial expertise and resources to further educate the market about responsible online privacy practices -- including privacy policies. We believe that this open approach brings tremendous value by identifying the changes that are needed to provide more transparency and build online trust. This, in turn, paves the way for the successful implementation of new and innovative online technologies."

TRUSTe Privacy Index - Key Findings from the 2011 Website Edition
The 2011 Website Edition reveals that the typical privacy policy is written six grade levels higher than the average U.S. reading level of 8th grade (calculated per the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability Formula). In addition, at 2,464 words, the average privacy policy is almost twice as long as the Declaration of Independence and one and a half times as long as Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech -- taking approximately 10 minutes to read at a 250 wpm comprehension. Written in this complicated and lengthy form, most online privacy policies are not easily interpreted by the majority of consumers, limiting their understanding of how personal data will be used and the choices that are available to them.

In addition, because disclosures are not clear and readily transparent, most consumers do not fully understand that when they visit one site, another company can be tracking their behavior, and yet another company might be receiving a copy of the data they entered.

The privacy index findings include current online trends, such as:

  • 72 percent of the websites analyzed say that they allow third-party tracking on their sites;
  • 36 percent say that they collect users' location data; and
  • 31 percent say that they share user-provided data with third parties.

However, in regards to consumer disclosures, many websites still fall short:

  • 93 percent of the websites do not disclose how long they keep customer data on file; and
  • 68 percent do not explain how a user can delete an account.

Ninety-seven percent of the websites analyzed have a privacy policy, compared with a national average of 14 percent in 1998 (Privacy Online: A Report to Congress, Federal Trade Commission, 1998). Yet out of the 100 websites analyzed, only a miniscule two percent have a mobile-optimized privacy policy. Yet, according to TRUSTe's 2011 Mobile Privacy Survey conducted by Harris Interactive, privacy is the number one consumer concern when using mobile applications on smartphones.

For more information, and to access the complete TRUSTe Privacy Index 2011 Website Edition, go to

TRUSTe Privacy Pulse Information Series
By launching its new "Privacy Pulse" information series, TRUSTe will address and share research findings regarding the most significant issues in online privacy -- spanning advertising, cloud services, mobile apps, and websites. By making these findings available, TRUSTe extends its commitment to provide the tools to help consumers manage their own privacy needs, while delivering a critical framework and reference point for businesses to approach and implement responsible online privacy practices.

TRUSTe will continue its online privacy information series with a 2012 Mobile Edition.

About TRUSTe
TRUSTe is the leading online privacy solutions provider and provides a broad suite of privacy management solutions enabling businesses to safely and efficiently manage the customer data required to power all of their online channels -- including advertising, cloud services, mobile apps and websites. Over 4,500 web properties including those from top companies like Apple, AT&T, Disney, eBay, HP, Microsoft, Nationwide, and Yelp rely on TRUSTe to ensure compliance with evolving and complex privacy requirements. TRUSTe's mission, based on a "Truth in Privacy" framework, is built on a solid foundation of transparency, choice and accountability regarding the collection and use of personal information. TRUSTe's privacy seal is recognized and trusted by millions of consumers as a sign of responsible privacy practices. For additional information on TRUSTe and its offerings, please visit

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