"I Agreed to WHAT?!" Re-envisioning License Agreements and Privacy Statements

Posted in Conferences, Companies, Science on June 28, 2009



License agreements and privacy statements are common features of software and software services, but less than 2% of the population actually read them. While many companies have little motivation to compel users to read such agreements, there are nonetheless times when it is advantageous to effectively communicate legal terms to one's user base.

In this talk, I present results from research redesigning the software license agreement process. In this work, we explored alternative interaction designs as well as new visual designs. Our most successful result, a Textured Agreement, is a visually redesigned software agreement that captures people's attention, conveys the personal relevance of the content, and increases the ease with which one can navigate and read the agreement. Results from an experimental study show that this design significantly increases reading time and is preferred by users. Furthermore, our data indicate these results are not simply due to the novelty of the design, but, rather, due to the particular set of design elements chosen. Our study also sheds light on the efficacy of providing summaries, an oft-proposed means of addressing the license agreement problem. In our experiment, we found that users read summaries, but then ignore the full agreement, a result that cautions against their use in practice.

Michael Terry is an assistant professor in the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, where he co-directs the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Lab. His research focuses on developing, deploying, and evaluating new tools to support usability needs in open source software development. He received a BS from Cornell University, a MS from Florida Tech, and a PhD from Georgia Tech.

Presented by Michael Terry (mterry@cs.uwaterloo.ca)
Google Tech Talk
May 12, 2009

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Tags: Techtalks, Google, Conferences, Science, Google Tech Talks, privacy, Companies, license, agreements