California Law AB 242 Would Require Privacy Policies to be Written at an 8th Grade Reading Level and be No Longer Than 100 Words

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Proposed California law AB 242, introduced by Assemblyman Ed Chau, is creating quite a buzz due to its wording, or rather, proposed lack of wording. AB 242 would require that all commercial websites and services offered through the Internet which collect personal information about California consumers make its privacy policy be written at a level of 8th grade reading, and be no longer 100 words.

Current law requires that a privacy policy be available to California residents using online services and commercial websites, but they do not specify that the policy be limited in wording or reading level. The reasoning is concern that consumers get overwhelmed by the pure length and legal jargon often included within privacy policies.

Within that 100 word and 8th grade reading level policy must be specifications clearly explaining how personal information will be shared, and whether it will be sold. Said Chau, “I think many privacy policies actually create a false sense of privacy for the average consumer. They’re just so long that people skip over them and click ‘accept’ without knowing what they’re signing onto.”

Whether the thinking is that most of the residents of California reading privacy policies have no more than an 8th grade education, or that lawmakers want to be sure that whatever the actual reading level of the users, privacy policies are geared towards the lowest common denominator, the law will no doubt relieve those who are driven to simply “skim and accept” in order to power through the jumbled privacy policy mess just so that they can download a few songs from iTunes.

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2 thoughts on “California Law AB 242 Would Require Privacy Policies to be Written at an 8th Grade Reading Level and be No Longer Than 100 Words

  1. The provisions of this bill are such as to redress partially, although, not completely gaping holes in consumer protections in contracts and law–but not only as to internet use but also all contracts also. It certainly seems flawed and incomplete–but contracts today are so weighted to the originator–that those who sign them have little recourse–especially where compulsory arbitration is concerned, that consumers are left with few real protections.

  2. The 8th grade reading level (if we can agree on what it is, and how to measure the out coming privacy policies) makes sense to me.

    That sort of stuff should be mandated everywhere. Except perhaps, for literature – works of fiction.

    But the 100 words? Cough. Oh, wow, Twitter style policies! Yah, that’ll get us places.

    Granted the current 10,000 page monstrosities discussing the

    “…. secondary rubric to be applied it investigative summary policies, in the case of a default curriculum of the interstate continuum…”

    SUCK! And are useless.

    But perhaps… 1,000 not 100 words, makes more sense.

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