On the heels of the FTC’s announcement that it is working on a “nutrition label” for privacy policies, a group of lawyers and tech types at Mozilla headquarters are now attempting to establish an iconography for such data that will assign a graphic icon for various data points.
For example, if a Web site sold users’ personal information to third parties, an orange circle with a dollar sign in the middle and an orange arrow pointing up – to suggest caution – would appear. A green circle with a dollar sign would accompany a site that does not sell information.
In another example, an orange sheriff’s badge with an arrow pointing up would indicate to consumers that a Web site makes personal information available to law enforcement without the necessity of legal proceedings. And a calendar with an infinity sign informs consumers that a site does not state how long it keeps user data. For sites that do indicate a specific length of time, the number of days would be shown in the calendar.
Users of Mozilla’s Firefox browser can install a plug-in to see the sites marked with the icons. For now, the icons will appear only on desktop computers and are unavailable on mobile devices.
Mozilla’s chief privacy officer Alex Fowler told The New York Times Bits blog that consumers currently do not read privacy policies. “Does icon-ifying them make it of interest to the user? We have a ways to go,” Fowler said.
Why it matters: The experiment is the latest attempt to make privacy policies more accessible to consumers. The Mozilla team faces sizable challenges given the density and length of most privacy policies. The team hoped to assign icons to 1,000 sites, but managed to work their way through the policies of only 235 sites on the first day.