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Automated Tracking of Online Service Policies

Automated Tracking of Online Service Policies Download File

Date: 14 Apr 2012

Document Type: Reports

Tags: Privacy & Identity


The use of online services such as social networking sites or search engines is generally governed by one or more usage policies, such as terms of service, end-user license agreements, and privacy policies. To facilitate effective dissemination of policy information, structured policy data formats such as the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) and others have been proposed, but have not benefited from wide adoption. Consequently, today users still must resort to locating, reading, and understanding the usage policies for the services they use regularly – an onerous task for ordinary users.
While structured policy formats have been slow to be adopted, human-readable natural language policy documents are ubiquitous across a wide variety of online services. For example, these documents can express a service’s privacy policy, end-user license agreement, or terms of service. In this paper, we present the design and implementation of the Policy Audit System, a system that aggregates the natural language policies for a wide variety of online services, monitors these policies for changes over time, and informs interested users of salient policy changes in a manner that is easy to understand.