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Undergrad Project Offers Site Privacy Information At a Glance 61

Posted by timothy
from the go-no-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Not everyone can read legalese. Websites ought to have clearer, more transparent, and simpler privacy policies. One important step in this direction is a simple way of summarizing a privacy policy's features, to make it easy to see how a website will use and protect user data. Inspired by Creative Commons and the Mozilla Privacy Icon Project, we (a group of Yale undergrads) have designed a set of icons, as well as simple descriptions, to describe common features of privacy policies. Additionally, we have built a generator to make it easy for websites to add these icons to their own sites. To further encourage awareness, we have reviewed several popular websites' privacy policies, so that users can see for themselves how they fare." True to their word, the examples show some tiny but nicely scannable icons.
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Undergrad Project Offers Site Privacy Information At a Glance

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  • Accessibility? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustinRLynn (831164) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @10:00AM (#39927077)
    Nice idea and I hope the implementation is well thought out -- designing pictograms that make sense to many cultures is difficult. The other usual concerns also apply -- speaking of which, one issue I see right off the bat is that they're using color as a sole designator in the icon set. For people with red/green color blindness, this makes the set of icons unusable for its intended purpose.
    • by PSVMOrnot (885854)

      It's definately a good start, and increasingly necessary as we approach the stage of needing a lawyer for every little transaction otherwise.

      I think it is still in need of some further development though. As Justin pointed out there is the red/green colour blind issue, which could neatly be solved by using a circle with a line through, which is pretty widely accepted as a negation.

      Also the first three icons - alert on changes, ability to export your data and only using the minimum required for functionality

    • Re:Accessibility? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FurtiveGlancer (1274746) <AdHocTechGuy.aol@com> on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @11:14AM (#39928275) Journal
      Addition of a diagonal cross bar to the red circle should suffice and matches accepted international symbology.
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Or, they could add an up and down arrow. Up for good, down for bad. Unless we're talking about Roman Gladiatorial judgements I think that "Up arrow good, down arrow bad" is pretty universal.

  • This is something that was needed for a looooooooong time. Bravo!
    A simple bunch of icons that are easy to understand.
    Just keep it like this, dont make any more, that will just dazzle people. Keep it simple and uniform, and with a good reference on-line so that it is easy to retrieve what something means.

    P.S.
    EU, have a look at this! This is how things should be done icon-wise...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    In my not-so-humble opinion, my take on the Mozilla icons is more clear: http://arka.foi.hr/~lmarcetic/pic/privacy/ [arka.foi.hr]

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      I hate it when my papers are available to cross walk guards.

  • Legalese Parser (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I thought this was going to be about a parser that processes the legalese and summarizes it into a couple of icons. Now that would be worth looking at.

  • I do like the idea of presenting privacy-relevant variables in a concise format; but I have to wonder if that would actually attack the problem usefully...

    It seems that(barring the institutionally incompetent, who usually get weeded out unless firmly entrenched in some other industry and just shoving a pseudopod into the web) people are usually pretty good at making obvious on their website whatever they wish to be obvious to the user. Privacy policies are generally made non-obvious, and written to be as
  • I think this needs some work. Claiming Facebook doesn't collect information not necessary for the transaction? Isn't this the same company that is well known for raiding peoples contact lists and location data on smart phones? Meanwhile craigslist collects too much information? They only ask for your email address these days!

    • I think this needs some work. Claiming Facebook doesn't collect information not necessary for the transaction?

      Weasel Words says: Define "Facebook transaction."

      • by dbialac (320955)

        > Define "Facebook transaction"

        Posting status updates to my friends. Posting messages to my friends. Finding my friends via information that I choose to divulge.

        • Sorry for the confusion, allow me to rephrase:

          How does Facebook define "transaction?"

          If you can answer that, you should be able to figure out what information they consider 'necessary.'
  • As they point out in their faq, companies may not reliably use the bad ones. That leaves it unclear whether a statement doesn't apply (e.g., no facility is provided to access and export your data because none is collected), or whether someone is just refusing to disclose whether the statement is true or not. An icon indicating that a policy statement doesn't apply would help clarify that distinction.

    Also, I'm not sure what the icon for indicating the site alerts you to policy changes implies...is postin
    • by hey (83763)

      Yes, a greyed-out "not applicable" version would be useful.

    • It would be nice if each icon came with an appropriate legal paragraph, concisely written but legally valid. Then grant the rights to use those icons only to sites that have the exact corresponding legal paragraph in their data privacy statement. That way, purveyors of web services can cobble together their own privacy statement from those standardised components, covering their needs and wants in legally correct but readable terms, and accompanied by well known icons that gives visitors the contents of t
      • It would be nice if each icon came with an appropriate legal paragraph, concisely written but legally valid

        Actually, the Mozilla privacy icons project [mozilla.org] aims to do just that. Strange, the Privacy Simplified website links to the Mozilla initiative... which makes me wonder what they hope to do better.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo AT world3 DOT net> on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @10:33AM (#39927573) Homepage

    I had to look at the key to understand these icons. I know these are hard concepts to encapsulate in an icon, but some alt-text would have really helped.

  • I'm not knocking the idea - it's a good one - but the icons as shown on the sample page differentiate 'good' from 'bad' icons only by the colour of the surrounding ring. That means that if displayed on a monochroms screen (think e-ink displays, or printout), or viewed by a colour-blind user, the information content is totally lost - at worst they could be actively misleading. Far better if the 'bad' icons had a triangular frame as well as a red border, as with 'warning' road signs, and 'good' icons remained

  • These are so badly done... Opaque (in meaning) icons, no hover text on the examples, and many of the icons (especially on the 'negative' side) represent user opinions rather than descriptive statements of fact that reflect real life TOS's. (And also ignorant of the non-binary nature of at least one option.)

    • These are so badly done...

      Yea, the icons you came up with are waaaay better...

      Oh, wait...

      • That I can't do better doesn't mean I can't recognize when they're done badly.

        • That I can't do better doesn't mean I can't recognize when they're done badly.

          Perhaps, but it's not like that's some special power that only you possess; opinions are like assholes - everybody's got one, and most of them smell like shit. Few people have the intellect/creativity/hojos/etc to actually do something about it other than bitch. In the words of John Mason Brown,

          “The critic is a man who prefers the indolence of opinion to the trials of action.”

          Point being, pissing and moaning about the shortcomings of others does nothing to better the situation, so why engage in such pointles

          • You know, constructive criticism.

            "Constructive criticism" is a term invented to deflect actual criticism by denying it's validity. It's a touchy-feely term that allows those being criticized to ignore actual criticism. It's bullshit I don't buy into.

            Here's a thought - instead of droning on about how you think they've done it wrong, try giving your idea of how to do it right.

            There's sufficient information in my critique to allow anyone with an IQ above room temperature to derive the flaws and see w

            • You know, constructive criticism.

              "Constructive criticism" is a term invented to deflect actual criticism by denying it's validity. It's a touchy-feely term that allows those being criticized to ignore actual criticism. It's bullshit I don't buy into.

              Actually, it's the difference between, "That's a stupid idea," and "That's a stupid idea, let me help you make it better." You can try and write it off as "touchy-feely" socialism, or whatever, but that doesn't change the fact you're coming across as an idea-less asshole with nothing better to do than bitch about other people's work.

              Here's a thought - instead of droning on about how you think they've done it wrong, try giving your idea of how to do it right.

              There's sufficient information in my critique to allow anyone with an IQ above room temperature to derive the flaws and see what corrective action is required.

              ... which is apparently beyond your own reasoning capabilities? I don't buy that shit for a second, yo.

              it's not like that's some special power that only you possess; opinions are like assholes - everybody's got one, and most of them smell like shit. Few people have the intellect/creativity/hojos/etc to actually do something about it other than bitch.

              Just because you're ignorant, doesn't mean other people are. That you can't recognize the difference between a valid critique and mere "bitching" is your own failure.

              Personal attacks and strawmen get you nowhere with me, dude. Besides, the

  • Another Approach (Score:4, Insightful)

    by martyb (196687) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @11:34AM (#39928601)

    Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with this source in any way; just a very satisfied user.

    Check out the free EULAlyzer which can be downloaded from: [javacoolsoftware.com]EULA Research Center [eularesearchcenter.com]. EULAlyzer works on Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, and 7.

    Example: I took a look at the Privacy Policy for /. which is located at: Geeknet Privacy Policy [geek.net] . "(Last Updated February 29, 2012) (Effective Date May 24, 2008)"

    EULAyzer summarized as:

    "Details: The license agreement above has a high calculated Interest ID. It's rather long, and there were a high number of detected 'interesting' words and phrases."

    The "Flagged Text" Called out the following, each of which can be expanded:

    • Advertising
    • Privacy: ID Number
    • Privacy: Web Bugs
    • Promotional Messages
    • Third Party
    • Web Site Address
    • Without Notice

    Each of these are expandable. Each expanded item provides an "Interest Level" graph and a link to its place in the License Agreement Text.

    PS: I've lurked on /. since before there even were UID numbers, but privacy concerns delayed my signing up. I'm quite frankly surprised at how extensive the policy is and that just shows me how much has changed since the olden days. I should probably check other on-line site's policies to see what's new there, too.

    • by 7-Vodka (195504)
      This is exactly what I've been looking for!

      Something to parse the legalese and give me a simplified version.

  • Why do the examples show the wrong "Information" color for Google? The description for the information collection category says that Google " might collect and use more information than is strictly necessary" (no doubt in my mind there). So why is the icon in the example green, meaning Google "collects and uses enough data to provide any necessary services"? If the examples are not even reliable, what hope does this system of icons have?
  • Take a look at their ratings of major sites. [yale.edu] That's a simple feature comparison checklist chart, but hard to read. Graphically, all the info is conveyed with colors only, which is awful. From a graphical standpoint, the icons are non-obvious. The picture of a human in a circle means "you can view and export your personal data". From a data collection standpoint, everything is either self-reported or manually set for major web sites, so there's a scaling problem. From an accuracy standpoint, Facebook has "will alert you to material changes" and "you can access all of your data" set to True, which is somewhat questionable given Facebook's history in those areas.

    Compare "The evolution of privacy on Facebook" [mattmckeon.com] Now that's an excellent, and original, graphical representation of Facebook's privacy issues.

    Presenting detailed information with multiple icons creates confusing visual clutter. Here's the chart for the international standard fabric care icons [textileaffairs.com] found on clothing labels.A liquid-filled cup with two dots and an underline means "Machine wash, warm, permanent press". A triangle with two diagonal lines means "Bleach with non-chlorine bleach as needed". Did you know that? It's on most garments.

    We've struggled with this problem for SiteTruth [sitetruth.com] We collect information about the business behind a web site, and present it to the user through browser add-ons. Doing this both concisely and effectively is tough. Right now, we have red, yellow, and green icons, with "do not enter", question mark, and checkmark graphics. We're about to launch a new system which brings up a small "dog tag" on link mousover, with information about the business. The dog tag uses text, not icons.

  • The average web site is now loaded with buttons and icons whose meaning is obvious...once you know their meaning. (Look at this one, for example.) Adding still more is not forward progress.

    I think it's a useful exercise for all web designers to attempt to use their sites in text-only browsers. Not only does this give at least some appreciation for the difficulties of handicapped users, but it tends to highlight problems that affect all users. It strips away all the eye candy and leaves only the skel
  • Lol, is it only me, or Spotify = ~Wikipedia?

  • I have tried running several well known privacy policies, such as Google's and Facebook's through the online Gunning-Fog Index (GFI) calculator at http://gunning-fog-index.com/ [gunning-fog-index.com]. The program said that you need to be in 15th grade in order to follow those policies. This post, by the way has a GFI of 9.733.
  • A naked man, doggy style, screaming, DO IT, DO IT, HERE, TAKE MY MONEY (ops, that was Apple :D )
  • I thout-off and designed such icons back in 2008

    My version is modular, account for color-blindness and can render B&W over white, black or any coloured background..

    I released them by-nc-sa
    http://www.noiraude.net/notracking/notracking.svg [noiraude.net]

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.

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