Making Data and Privacy Easier to Understand Through People-Centered Design

By Erin Egan, VP Public Policy, and Chief Privacy Officer for Policy

Update on December 7, 2020 at 9:00 AM PT:

Since publishing this white paper, we’ve hosted online consultations with privacy experts from the US, Australia and Brazil. Our discussions centered on how to provide effective privacy notices that are easy for people to understand and empower people to make informed decisions about their data and privacy. Some of these conversations surfaced areas where we can improve our products, and we’re now working to make our data policy easier to understand and navigate based on this feedback. We also redesigned one of our most widely used data access tools called Access Your Information based on recommendations from experts. We’re currently testing the redesign and will roll it out soon. 

In our consultations, experts also advocated for Facebook to share learnings with other companies, especially smaller ones, about what privacy communication methods have worked most effectively for Facebook. That’s why we’re sharing insights and best practices through TTC Labs, including through interactive, educational web pages called Lenses that explain privacy and data concepts in an approachable and engaging way. Today, we’re releasing a new Lens that shares how app and web developers can help people make more informed decisions about specific privacy choices by providing data and privacy information when it’s most relevant. For a food delivery app, this could mean asking people to share location data at the point of looking for nearby restaurants, rather than when someone initially downloads the app. Read more about Leveraging Context in Design.

We’re grateful to everyone who participated in these consultations and we’ll continue to host more of these in 2021.

Originally published on July 14, 2020 at 8:55 PM PT:

Privacy Matters is a series that takes a closer look at changes we’ve made to improve our privacy approach and protect people’s information.

We want to make sure everyone understands how their data is collected, used and shared. That’s why we’ve developed tools like Privacy Checkup and Privacy Basics that make it simple for people to see and manage their privacy settings. But we know that explaining our data practices involves more than building tools for managing your privacy – we need to use the same design principles that make Facebook easy to use, to try to make our data practices easy to understand.

Today, we’re publishing a white paper that highlights the need for companies to better communicate privacy information by putting people at the center of privacy design decisions. If done well, we can empower everyone, regardless of literacy level or familiarity with technology, to make informed choices about how and when to share their data. But ensuring people understand their choices when it comes to data and privacy is something no individual company or government can solve alone. That’s why the paper also highlights the importance of collaboration among companies, policymakers and other experts.

There have been important improvements to privacy and data protection laws and regulations in recent years, like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that aim to make data practices more transparent. However, in order for people to understand what privacy policies actually mean, companies need to communicate data practices and user rights clearly and adapt policies for new technologies. That’s why we’ve called for robust privacy laws that require companies to clearly explain data practices and choices. 

Building on our own work to iterate and improve how we communicate with people about privacy over the years, the paper we’re publishing today aims to identify some common challenges and complexities in getting this right, encourage more global conversations and collaboration on this topic, and propose some promising paths forward, including through design and policy co-creation.

Design: Through TTC Labs, a cross-industry effort founded and supported by Facebook, we’re working with a range of experts and companies to develop creative design solutions to better inform people about their data and privacy choices. The best solutions — the ones that are clearest for people and most comprehensive — are born out of collaboration among experts in policy, privacy and technology. That’s why TTC Labs hosts one-day workshops called Design Jams that bring together designers, developers, privacy experts and regulators to share ideas and create digital privacy notice prototypes that will be easy for people to navigate and understand.

TTC Labs is also developing a series of new interactive, educational web pages called Lenses that explain privacy and data concepts in an approachable and engaging way. Today, we’re sharing the first Lens, Designing Transparency For All, that highlights some of the key considerations in designing for transparency in a way that’s easy for people to understand. The Lens also links to relevant material from the TTC Labs website including practical examples and alternative ways of addressing these issues. Sample design patterns, blogs from international thought leaders, and free transparency design and group work tools can also be accessed through the Lens. This is the first in a series of Lenses which explain design concepts and how they can improve people’s experience with data online. Upcoming Lenses will address issues such as empowering people through controls and leveraging context in design. 

Policy co-creation: We’ll continue working with regulators, policymakers, companies and other experts to ensure people are well-informed about data and privacy choices. And we’ll explore new ways to hold companies, including Facebook, accountable for communicating these clearly. We believe that if we grapple with these complex issues now, we can help improve future regulation and make it easier for people to understand and manage their data.

In the coming months, we’ll host a series of virtual consultations with experts on this topic. Through research, discussion and debate, we’ll explore areas that require more attention and surface new solutions that we intend to apply to our own practices here at Facebook.

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