Visualizing the Length of Privacy Policies

Ever wonder how long it’d take you to read through a company’s privacy policy? We compared it to historical texts and works to show you.

Which tech company has the longest privacy policy?

Whether you care to admit it or not, we’ve all hit the “I accept” button on a privacy policy without reading the fine print. In our haste to snag an online deal, send a tweet, or minimize an annoying “our site has cookies” pop-up, most of us accept privacy policies before we fully understand their terms and conditions.

Let’s face it: privacy policies are unreasonably long, and unless you enjoy combing through thousands of words of difficult-to-understand, cryptic jargon, you probably don’t have the time or energy to read through them all.

Up until recently, it wasn’t that big of a deal to not read privacy policies. But as we’ve seen TikTok privacy problems and Facebook privacy disputes arise over the years, it’s clear that Americans are too quick to accept. 

To see how long it would take you to read privacy policies from top tech and social media companies, we compared them to the average amount of time it would take someone to read some iconic historical and literary works (we’re talking the US Constitution, The Communist Manifesto, Magna Carta, etc.). 

 

Here’s How Long it’d Take You to Read Each Company’s Privacy Policy

  • You’d spend about 50 minutes reading through TikTok’s privacy policy—that’s three minutes shy of how long it would take you to read The Communist Manifesto start to finish.
  • Google’s privacy policy contains 7,837 words—which is more words than the US Constitution contains.
  • The Magna Carta takes about 15 mins to read. Instagram, Apple, and Facebook’s privacy policies each take over 17 mins to read. 
  • For better or worse, Microsoft—the oldest company on our list—has a privacy policy of 3,045 words, making it the shortest privacy policy on our list—that shakes out to be about 12 minutes of read time. That’s still longer than the amount of time it would take you to read JFK’s 1961 Inauguration speech and the Declaration of Independence.
  • TikTok’s privacy policy is more than double the length of every other companies’ privacy policy (11,781 words). Even though its verbiage addresses minors directly, it’s the hardest to read based on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level reading standard.
  • Twitter’s privacy policy is one of the easiest to read (second only to Instagram), yet its read time is still only three minutes shy of the amount of time it’d take you to read George Washington’s Farewell Address.

Here’s What Else We Found

  • The most common phrase in Amazon’s privacy policy is “we use your information to.”
  • “Information” is the most frequently used word in every company’s privacy policy, which makes sense since the privacy (or lack thereof) each policy refers to is one of information and data.
  • Compared to other companies’ privacy policies, TikTok and Apple’s privacy policies cite the phrase “Personal data” nearly twice as much. Instagram, though, made no mention of the sorts in its privacy policy.
  • The most common phrase in Snapchat’s privacy policy is “we may share information about you.” (Hopefully none of that “information” involves embarrassing selfies or videos.)
  • TikTok’s most-used phrase in its privacy policy is “your parents or legal guardians.” The app is popular among Generation Z (1997-2012), and 30% of GenZ users are 18 or under.
  • All but two privacy policies (Instagram and Twitter) require a 10th-grade reading comprehension level or higher. Ironically, most companies advertise their platforms as 13+, which is 2–3 years younger than someone in 10th grade.

Here’s How We Got Our Numbers

We used information from Word Counter Plus Plugin and WEBFX to obtain the word count and Flesch-Kincaid Reading ease and grade level standard for the following top tech companies and social media apps: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Microsoft, Netflix, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter.

From there, we used web pages, including goodreads.com and ushistory.org, to obtain the word count for the following documents, literary works, and speeches: The Articles of Confederation, Christopher Columbus’s discovery letter to Luis De Sant Angel, “Day of Infamy” speech, the Emancipation Proclamation, George Washington’s farewell address, John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inauguration Address, the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, Art of War, The Communist Manifesto, the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the United States Constitution.

To determine the average amount of time it takes someone to read each privacy policy and historical text, we based read time on the average reading speed of 240 words per minute.

In case you were wondering, it takes a little over three minutes to read this article. That means you could read this article 16 times, and it would still be faster than reading TikTok’s privacy policy once.

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