By Tom Ryan
Recognizing that relinquishing privacy rights is a lot more complicated than signing a release form to bungee jump, Carnegie Mellon University is leading a project to help consumers quickly comprehend the “the lengthy, often-confusing and subject-to-change” privacy policies now posted by major websites.
Working with law school researchers at Fordham and Stanford universities, computer scientists and behavioral economists at Carnegie Mellon will teach computer systems how to read and evaluate each website’s privacy policies. Crowdsourcing will then be used to identify and extract those policy features that matter most to people.
Earlier attempts to encourage websites to post privacy policies in machine-readable language or to get website operators to abide by new rules have encountered “significant resistance.” That inspired project leaders to develop a translator based on already available, “rarely read, plain English privacy policies.”
With crowdsourcing itself unable to keep pace with changing policies, computers will be relied upon to routinely scan policies, even though computers can’t yet understand all the nuances of human language.