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Polisis uses AI to Protect your Online Privacy

Overview

  • Remember those millions of lines of terms and conditions you always agree to?
  • There’s a machine learning powered software, called Polisis, that does the hard work for you
  • The ML model was trained on 130,000 privacy policies
  • Gives you a readable summary and a flow chart of the privacy policy of any site
  • We tested it out on LinkedIn, read on to find out more

 

Introduction

Nobody actually reads privacy policies. You see those terms and conditions and without a second glance, the box is ticked and you move on to the actual product. In the millions of sentences, you don’t really see what personal information you just agreed to share with the website.

                              Source: Economic Times

In fact, a study conducted by a researcher at NYU revealed that only 0.7% of users actually read the privacy policy before click on ‘I Accept’!

Now, there’s a software that can break down a website’s privacy policies inside a minute and consequently help you protect your personal information you were unwittingly giving out.

Named Polisis (short for “privacy policy analysis”), this program has been developed by a group of researchers from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin. It informs users which websites (and applications) collect and even sell their personal data. The machine learning model behind this software was trained on over 130,000 privacy policies the developers found on Google’s App Store.

It’s a free piece of software and can be utilized as a browser extension in Firefox and Google Chrome.

Polisis can read the privacy policy of any website (that it hasn’t seen before) inside a minute and do the following steps:

  • Give you a readable summary of the policy
  • Make it into a flow chart of what exactly is going to be shared and where that information will be used
  • Let’s you know whether you can opt out of the information sharing part

To go along with Polisis, the developers have also created a chatbot called ‘Pribot’. If you have any questions on any privacy policy, Pribot is able to come up with the answer. It’s like a digitally powered legal assistant. We asked Pribot a question on whether we could opt out of LinkedIn’s data collection feature:

 

Our take on this

We installed the Polisis extension on Chrome and tested it on LinkedIn’s policies. Below are the results:

It gave us a full plethora of privacy features LinkedIn uses – from our location to what personal informatiton will be shared with advertisers, among other things. I couldn’t recommend installing this extension highly enough. In today’s day and age of data breaches and a lack of privacy awareness, this will really help keep track of what and where your personal data is being shared.

Of course this software isn’t the first of it’s kind. Columbia University and the Carnegie Mellon University have previously developed similar programs but Polisis is the first to be made free and open to the general public.

 

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