Aysun Ogut, Berke Turanlioglu, Doruk Can Metiner, Albert Levi, Cemal Yilmaz, and Orcun Cetin, Sabanci University, Tuzla, Istanbul, Turkiye; Selcuk Uluagac, Cyber-Physical Systems Security Lab, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA
Privacy has become a significant concern as the processing, storage, and sharing of collected data expands. In order to take precautions against this increasing issue, countries and different government entities have enacted laws for the protection of privacy, and articles regarding acquiring consent from the user to collect data (i.e., via cookies) have been regulated such as the right of one to be informed and to manage their preferences. Even though there are many regulations, still many websites do not transparently provide their users with their privacy practices and cookie consent notices, and restrict one's rights or make it difficult to set/choose their privacy preferences. The main objective of this study is to analyze whether websites from around the world inform their users about the collection of their data and to identify how easy or difficult for users to set their privacy preferences in practice. While observing the differences between countries, we also aim to examine whether there is an effect of geographical location on privacy approaches and whether the applications and interpretations of countries that follow and comply with the same laws are similar. For this purpose, we have developed an automated tool to scan the privacy notices on the 500 most popular websites in different countries around the world. Our extensive analysis indicates that in some countries users are rarely informed and even in countries with high cookie consent notifications, offering the option to refuse is still very low despite the fact that it is part of their regulations. The highest rate of reject buttons on cookie banners in the countries studied is 35%. Overall, although the law gives the user the right to refuse consent and be informed, we have concluded that this does not apply in practice in most countries. Moreover, in many cases, the implementations are convoluted and not user-friendly at all.
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