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Content Analysis of Privacy Policies for Health Social Networks

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2 Author(s)
Pratik Savla ; Intuit, Inc., Mountain View, CA, USA ; Lorenzo D. Martino

The Web is an important resource for health information. Pew's Internet and American Life Project found 62% of adult Web users looking for health-related information on health social networks. However, the National Survey on Identity and Privacy in Social Media by The Ponemon Institute reported that about 56% of adult users were anxious about the privacy of their personal information on social networks. This paper examines the privacy policies of 35 online health social networks selected based on the U.S. users' traffic. The objectives of this research are to determine the extent to which privacy policies of online health social networks comply with the principles of Fair Information Practice (FIP) and to evaluate the readability and accessibility of policies. To measure the readability of the policy statements, the Flesch Reading Ease Score and Flesch Kincaid Grade Level score metrics are used. The findings indicate that 9% of the websites in the sample had no privacy policy posted, and only about 26% of the websites in the sample fully complied with the FIP. Our findings show that compliance with the FIP principles is poor, and confirm that most policies require a reading skill higher than the Internet population's average literacy level.

Published in:

Policies for Distributed Systems and Networks (POLICY), 2012 IEEE International Symposium on

Date of Conference:

16-18 July 2012