While most read parts of privacy policies, many admit they do not read them at all

TORONTO — In a study commissioned and guided by the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA)’s Privacy and Data Advisory Committee, it was found that consumers want to read privacy policies, but they have to be user-friendly.

The survey, undertaken to provide insights on privacy-related consumer views and released to mark International Data Privacy Day, sought to identify some of the reasons why Canadians do not read privacy policies. It identified that while most Canadians say they read parts of privacy policies, one quarter admit they don’t read policies at all, mainly because they find privacy policies are too long and difficult to understand. Many do not feel informed about Canadian data privacy laws, individual rights and the obligations of companies. Large numbers show interest in reading user-friendly information to support privacy policies, like summaries of terms or plain language explanations.

The survey, conducted by Environics Research, also found that Canadians care about how companies store and secure their personal information, and want to know how and why these organizations collect and use this information; of least concern is how companies monetize data and their use of third party service providers.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • There are nearly twice as many Canadians (39%) who admit they are uninformed about data privacy laws than those (20%) who say they feel informed.
  • 41% of Canadians feel they receive too little information from companies related to data privacy, while 29% feel they receive too much information.
  • While 60% of Canadians say they typically read parts of privacy policies, 25% say they don’t read policies at all.
  • When asked why privacy policies are not read in detail, the top reasons identified are the length of policies, complexity of the language, or lack of choice.
  • A top concern for a majority of Canadians (57%) pertains to how a company keeps their personal information secure.
  • Large majorities (84% to 93%) show interest in user-friendly options to support privacy policies. Additional information such as a summary of the key terms, providing information about settings, highlighting changes to policies, and FAQs could be used to encourage consumers to read about privacy information and potentially improve the trust that consumers have with companies.

“The issues of transparency and accountability are in the forefront for many Canadians – our customers,” said Amanda Maltby, CMA Privacy and Data Advisory Committee’s Chair and General Manager, Compliance and Chief Privacy Officer at Canada Post

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. “In addition to providing insights into consumer data privacy attitudes and behaviours, the survey reveals customer expectations about how we need to interact with them. Consumers tell us they are indeed interested in privacy information, but that it needs to be provided to them in a user-friendly way.”

Suzanne Morin, the committee’s project lead and VP and Associate General Counsel, Québec and Enterprise Chief Privacy Officer at Sun Life Financial, stated that “the results provide valuable input for our committee to develop best practice guidance for marketers to better communicate about data use and privacy. A layered approach that gives consumers key information with the option to go deeper, for example, a short and mobile friendly ‘label’ that can be taken in with a glance. The goal is to provide privacy information that demystifies data use and draws attention to what Canadians value most – it’s time for Transparency 2.0.”

The report is based on an online survey of 2,000 adults aged 18+ and was conducted by Toronto research firm Environics Research. It was created to offer insights into the awareness and perceptions that surround privacy in Canada.

To view more findings from the survey, please visit https://www.the-cma.org/regulatory/privacy

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