Noticing Notice: A Large-Scale Experiment on the Timing of Software License Agreements

Privacy and Security

Article Snapshot


Nathaniel Good, Jens Grossklags, Joseph A. Konstan and Deirdre Mulligan


Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '07), San Jose, CA, April 28-May 3, 2007, pp. 607-616


This paper looks at how consumers respond to different software licenses.

Policy Relevance

Adding short, easy to read notices to software licenses helps consumers avoid spyware, but policymakers and software makers need to do more.

Main Points

  • Many software programs carrying “spyware” that reports data about the user’s actions online honestly disclose the activities of the software in the end user license agreement (EULA), but users install it anyway.

  • In our survey of 222 users, they reported most concern about viruses, pop-ups, and spyware, somewhat less about privacy and identity theft. Users who reports worrying about security online often install unfamiliar programs for discounts or free benefits.

  • Offering a short, easy to read summary before the EULA reduces the chance that consumers will install a program and regret it later. Regulators should continue efforts to encourage notices that are short and easy to read.

  • Showing consumers a summary of the software license after the software is installed also reduces regret and increases “uninstalls.” Giving consumers a chance to test software before it is installed would be helpful.

  • Regret is still high even when better notices are used, so additional software tools and legal protection would be helpful; such as a simple way for users to restore their machine to the state before software was installed.

  • Regulators should require spyware vendors to get express consent and follow special procedures.

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