Understanding Privacy Policies in User Agreements

by Barbara J. Feldman on February 6, 2008

One of the hardest things to understand in privacy policies are the terms that the companies use to write the actual policies. Many times what happens is that the companies use legal terms that a laymen can not understand unless they happen to have some kind of a background in law. But the thing is that when it comes to privacy policies they actually don’t need to be that complicated. Basically what that means is that regardless of how the privacy policy is written, you as a customer should be able to read and understand all of the terms and conditions that are used. Most companies try to keep their privacy policy short and to the point, meaning without a bunch of terms, including legal terms, that the customer has a hard time understanding. But for those policies that are filled with unfamiliar terms the good news is that most of these terms are quite common, meaning they can be found in most policies and when they are found they always mean the same thing.

Here is a list of some of the terms that you might run across when reading a company’s privacy policy.

Tracker GIF (Clear GIF) — electronic images that are usually not visible to site visitors that allow a website to count those who have visited that page or to access certain cookies.
Trace route — the course that a packet travels across the Internet from one computer to another
Query string — the extended string of a URL after the standard website address. This data begins with a question mark and usually contains the search information requested by the user. The website uses this string to provide the requested information to the user.
Proxy server — a proxy server is a system that caches items from other servers to speed up access. On the web a proxy first attempts to find data locally and if its not there fetches it from the remote server where the data resides permanently.
Privacy seal program — a program that certifies a site’s compliance with the standards of privacy protection. Only those sites that comply with the standards are able to note certification
GUID — Acronym for globally unique identifier. This unique code is used to identify a computer, user, file, etc for tracking purposes.
Ad blocker — software placed on a user’s personal computer that prevents advertisements from being displayed on the web. Benefits of an ad blocker include the ability of web pages to load faster and the prevention of user tracking by ad networks
Ad networks — companies that purchase and place banner advertisements on behalf of their clients
Anonymizer — a service that prevents web sites from seeing a user’s Internet protocol (IP) address. The service operates as an intermediary to protect the user’s identity

Digital certificate — using encryption technology a document can be digitally stamped or certified as to its place of origin. A certification authority supports or legitimizes the certificates
Digital signature — digital certification or stamp that authenticates an individual’s signature is legitimate. This is done using encryption technology.
Encryption — the scrambling of digital information so that it is unreadable to the average user. A computer must have digital keys to unscramble and read the information.

But regardless of what terms are used the privacy policy in general should be really easy to understand. And the reason for that is that the main thing that the privacy policy is doing is disclosing to you what the company is going to be collecting from you, why they are collecting that information from you, what they plan on doing with that information, and how they are going to make sure that there policies are enforced. Not to mention the privacy policy is going to tell you what you can do if the company misuses your information or uses your information in a way that violates the agreement.

More tips like this one in Online Trends



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Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Understanding Privacy Policies in User Agreements." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 6 Feb. 2008. Web. 18 Jul. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/tech/1314/understanding-privacy-policies-in-user-agreements/ >.