In discussing potential new privacy laws, Vladeck stressed the need for short and concise notifications to consumers. Many current privacy policies don't effectively communicate companies' practices to consumers, Vladeck said. And, he added, lengthy and dense policies definitely won't work on smartphones or other small screens.
To illustrate just how few consumers read privacy policies, Vladeck told lawmakers about Gamestations' prank, which involved adding this clause to its terms of service: "By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul."
Even though Gamestation provided an opt-out link -- and gave anyone who opted out an $8 voucher -- only 12 % of users opted out, while 7,500 users agreed to sell their souls.
"I don't believe these consumers really meant to transfer their rights to their souls to an online gaming company," Vladeck said, adding that the incident "drives home the need for short and concise notices."
Vladeck also told Congress that many consumers care about privacy "as a value in and of itself," apart from concerns about potential identity theft or tangible financial loss. Even so, he said, consumers don't understand the extent to which their data is being collected and used.