Older Adults and “the Biggest Lie on the Internet”: From Ignoring Social Media Policies to the Privacy Paradox

Jonathan A. Obar, Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch


Older adults (50+) may self-report online privacy concerns and claims of protective behaviors, but what happens when actual privacy behaviors are assessed? An experimental survey (N = 500) evaluated older adult engagement with the online consent process for a fictitious social networking service called NameDrop. Results demonstrate 77.6% chose the clickwrap, agreeing to the privacy policy (PP) without accessing it. For those accessing policies, average PP reading time was about 70 seconds, 81.4 seconds for terms of service (TOS). Participants convey an interest in protections but find policies long, complicated, and impeding a desire to join services quickly. Results also suggest two examples of the privacy paradox: for clickwrap use and for policy reading time. To address these ignoring behaviors, digital service providers should offer support by addressing problematic designs like clickwraps and long/complicated policies. Findings emphasize implications as 91.4% of participants accepted the NameDrop PP, which included data collection/sharing “gotcha” clauses, while 83.4% accepted the TOS, including an extreme clause requiring users to provide a kidney or other “redundant organ” in exchange for service.


privacy, online consent, social media, privacy policy, terms of service, clickwrap

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