For most people (including me), privacy policies fall into the same category as “terms of service” documents — they contain important information, but are usually so long and impenetrably written that they’re not worth the effort of reading. AT&T says it’s trying to take a different approach with a draft privacy policy that it published this morning, one that’s actually comprehensible to your average reader.

AT&T’s Chief Privacy Officer Dorothy Attwood tells The New York Times that the policy doesn’t really change AT&T privacy practices, but it does make them a lot clearer. There’s still some vagueness about exactly what data AT&T collects, but it’s clear that there’s a lot, including your location, the websites you visit, your social security number, and more. And the fact that I was able to read and understand the document from beginning to end is an achievement itself. Plus, the policy comes with other user-friendly features, like explanatory videos, a frequently asked questions page, and links to a form where I can opt out of certain ad-matching programs.

In the main video, Attwood makes five promises to AT&T customers:

1. We will protect your privacy and keep your personal information safe.
2. We will not sell your personal information to anyone for any purpose.
3. You have choices about how AT&T uses your information for marketing purposes.
4. We will fully disclose our privacy policies in plain language.
5. We will notify our customers of privacy policy changes before they go into effect.

This seems like a smart move for AT&T at a time when there are increasing concerns about what companies are doing with user data. And while the announcements are probably unrelated, it may restore some of the goodwill AT&T lost among US iPhone owners after a couple of disappointing announcements at Apple’s Worldwide Developers conference earlier this week.

[photo:flickr/rpongsaj]