How Do Websites Use Your Data?

A new tool in Google Chrome puts website privacy policy language in plain English, letting you easily know whether your email address is shared or the site has access to your Social Security number, and if it tracks your location.

by Omar L. Gallaga, Austin American-Statesman / May 11, 2015

(TNS) -- Websites are constantly collecting data about you, the web surfer, without your knowledge. But how worried should you be — and how do you figure out what the dangers are — when privacy policies vary from website to website? “PrivacyCheck,” a free new tool from the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Identity, may be able to help.

The tool, which works as a downloadable extension to the Google Chrome web browser, analyzes a website’s privacy policy and tells you in plain English how that service — be it Facebook or Amazon.com — handles your personal data. That can include whether your email address is shared, whether the site has access to your Social Security number, whether the site shares information with law enforcement and if it tracks your location. That info is presented as 10 icons that come up as red, yellow or green, depending on how that site scores. The tricky part? Finding the page where a website keeps its privacy policy. Best to just Google “(Name of website) privacy policy.”

You can find the extension on the Google Chrome Web Store or find more info on the Center for Identity website, identity.utexas.edu.

©2015 Austin American-Statesman, Texas. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.