Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

The Shorter the Better? Effects of Privacy Policy Length on Online Privacy Decision-Making

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Abstract:  Privacy policies provide Internet users with the possibility to inform themselves about websites’ usage of their disclosed personal data. Strikingly, however, most people tend not to read privacy policies because they are long and cumbersome, indicating that people do not wish to expend much (cognitive) effort on reading such policies. The present study aimed to examine whether shorter privacy policies can be beneficial in informing users about a social networking site’s (SNS) privacy practices, and to investigate associations between variables relevant for privacy decision-making using one theory-based integrative model. In an online experiment, participants (N = 305) were asked to create a personal account on an SNS after being given the option to read the privacy policy. Privacy policy length and the SNS’s level of privacy were varied, creating a 2 (policy length) x 2 (level of privacy) between-subjects design. The results revealed that participants who saw short policies spent less time on reading but gained higher knowledge about the SNS’s privacy practices—due to the fact that they spent more reading time per word. Factual privacy policy knowledge was found to be an indicator for participants’ subjective privacy perception. The perception and evaluation of the specific SNS´s privacy level influenced the assessment of privacy costs and benefits. Particularly when benefits were perceived as high, self-disclosure was increased.

Keywords:  online privacy; privacy calculus; privacy policy; self-disclosure; social networking site



© Yannic Meier, Johanna Schäwel, Nicole C. Krämer. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.