Ethical concerns about social media privacy policies: do users have the ability to comprehend their consent actions?

Annmarie Hanlon, Karen Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social media platforms capture and trade consumer data for analysis, user profiling and for sale to interested parties and is used extensively in marketing. To collect, store, process and resell this data, they are legally required to obtain informed consent. However, users may agree to consent without the ability to comprehend the consequences of what that consent means. In this article we examine the complexity of privacy policies and raise ethical concerns about the ability of users to comprehend their consent actions. Using readability scores and reading fluency instruments, we analyzed the accessibility of privacy policies from a major social media platform (Meta) and a smaller platform (Twitter). Findings indicate that due to reading fluency and document length it is unlikely all users, especially minors, can authorize the consent actions which raises ethical concerns. Practical implications for managers and policy makers are also discussed and regulators may need to review users’ access to platforms where they lack the ability to comprehend their consent actions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Strategic Marketing
Early online date7 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.


  • Social media platforms consent procedures
  • consent actions
  • ethics
  • informed consent
  • privacy policies
  • readability


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