Privacy icons summarize privacy policies

A group of students from Yale University have shared their final project for their Control, Privacy, and Technology course which offers the novel idea of using icons to brief users of a site’s privacy policy in a clear and simple manner.

“Not everyone can read legalese. Websites ought to have clearer, more transparent, and simpler privacy policies,” say the students. “Inspired by Creative Commons and the Mozilla Privacy Icon Project, we have designed a set of icons, as well as simple descriptions, to describe common features of privacy policies.

The icons designed for the Privacy Simplified project are as follows (and they all have their positive “green” counterparts):

They indicate whether the website in question alerts users to material changes or not; whether the user can always access and export his data or not; whether the website collects and uses only the user data necessary to provide its services or more information than is strictly necessary.

They also specify whether the website may be collecting user data only to share it with other organizations in order to complete the intended transaction or may be selling or trading it with interested third parties.

The last two icons in the above row signal whether the website encrypts user data or not; and whether the organization complies with a government’s request to hand over user data only when it follows the legal process for such requests or even when such procedure has not been followed.

The students have also set up a generator that will match the icons to the policies of a site if the administrators choose to display them.

“We hope that these icons will simplify privacy policies and enable users to make well-informed decisions about whether to consent to sharing their data,” say the students, but unfortunately, as simple and good the idea behind the project is, no one forces the administrators to display the icons.

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