There has been a flurry of Legal Design around communicating privacy. Most of the designs concern how to more effectively communicate the policies of technology companies toward the data of their users. The fundamental problem is users’ agreement to the policies by using the services, without a rich understanding of what they are agreeing to through their use. One project that has tried to use graphic & communication design to level this playing field — and communicate companies’ privacy policies with quickness & clarity — came out last year. Privacy Icons is a project under the umbrella of Mozilla, led by designer & technologist Aza Raskin. An article from the NYTimes on the project:
The icons Mozilla has established
Who Are They For?
For any sites that store user data
For e-commerce sites, advertisers, and social networks, Privacy Icons are a competitive differentiator. Adopting Privacy Icons for your site signals respect for user choice and control, and doing business transparently. There’s an emerging marketplace for personal data, where users exchange information about themselves for online goods and services. But personal data is a currency whose exchange rate is unknown. As users begin to understand the value of their data, the market will reward companies who treat their users transparently and with respect. Over time, the fair value of these exchanges will emerge, and companies who appreciate their customers’ privacy will be rewarded. Differentiation based on privacy matters to users. Think about the large number of sites which vehemently promise to never share your email address when you sign up for their service or mailing list. Those are the kinds of sites, which make up a significant fraction of the web, that should adopt Privacy Icons.
For users who voluntarily share personal data
Q: How do you account for complexity and diversity of policies?
A: We don’t. The icons “bolt-on” to your policy. The Privacy Icon makes an iron-clad guarantee about some portion of how a company treats your data. This method means that without ever having to delve into the details, everyday people can glance at the simple icons atop a privacy to know if and how their data is being used.
Q: Nobody will use the bad icons?
A: Good icons will be competitive advantage. We won’t invest time in “bad” icons, only honest ones.
Earlier this year, Mozilla convened a privacy workshop that brought together some of the world’s leading thinkers in online privacy. People from the FTC to the EFF were there to answer the question: What attributes of privacy policies and terms of service should people care about? This lead to a proposal presented for the W3C, among other places, which further refined the notion. We are now ready to propose an alpha version of Privacy Icons that takes into account the feedback and participation we’ve received along the way. We’ve simplified the core set dramatically and tightened up the language. While the icons don’t touch on all topics, we do think they significantly move the discussion on privacy, as well as the general level of literacy about privacy, forward. We do not want to let perfection or devotion to taxonomy get in the way of the good. Keep in mind that the target adopters of Privacy Icons are 2nd-tier sites—the sites where differentiation based on privacy matters to their users. Think about the large number of sites which vehemently promise to never share your email address when you sign up for their service or mailing list. Those are the kinds of sites, which make up a significant fraction of the web, that would adopt Privacy Icons. The Icons References to Data mean data that is either personally identifiable (including name, ip address, or email address) or associated with some personally identifiable aspect of your identity (such as correlated with your ip address name, or email address).