Is thinking about user privacy protection a need or a requirement in design?

To find out, I spoke with Ramon Sangüesa (@ramonsang) from the Data Transparency Lab, an inter-institutional collaboration between MIT, Mozilla, Inria and Telefonica raising awareness on data privacy through research, science and design.

We discuss topics such as: why we should all care about privacy, what designer can do in all this and the world of government data privacy. In the following week I came across a design company based in London that is starting the discussion from a design perspective.

Studio If have started the design discussion of privacy and have created an open source bank of design patterns to navigate users through the complicated world of data consent. If you are in the London area, they will be making the dialogue public with new meetups scheduled in the next few weeks.

An example of a design pattern created by If (Image Sourced from https://projectsbyif.com/ideas/we-need-new-patterns)

Privacy is now even more relevant after congress in the US signed a bill into the House that will ultimately allow ISPs in the US to sell customer browsing data. Designers role will be ever more important in helping users navigate the soon to be very complex world of personal data privacy.

Usability, accessibility, simplicity and enhancing experience are a few terms that are used in making design decisions. Is user protection a user need or a requirement? Who is responsible in protecting consumers and citizens from the products we design and build and at which point do designers enter this conversation?

Below is my chat with Ramon and the time codes to the various topics we discussed.

(FYI, I’m not a sound editor so please be aware of some off levels to the audio and the video is cut in abruptly due to us having some trouble connecting, don’t mind my early laugh.)

[0:00] We had some trouble with linking on Skype so were laughing at going back to the traditional method of a phone call.

[00:10] I explain to Ramon about the mission of designersofdata.com and the reason I wanted to speak with him and DTL. We talk about why the discussion about privacy and information communication is needed in the various fields of design.

[05:17] Ramon talks about the mission and purpose of the Data Transparency Lab and the drive to start discussion and research in the field of transparency. They also provide research funding to build tools, raise awareness and understand what is happening with your data.

[08:51] Mydata conference http://mydata2017.org

[11:17] We discuss why you should we care about data even if you are getting a free service like Facebook, Strava and Google.

[18:16] Once we are now aware of what is happening, what’s next? How can people to take action?

I refer to using the FDVT — Data Valuation Tool for Facebook http://www.fdvt.org/

(at the time of writing the chrome add on worked but the site was not working)

[22:23] What should designers think about when designing products? Ramon suggests some principles designers can keep in mind when thinking about privacy when creating digital products.

[29:10] Now that designers are aware of what they can do, we discuss what barriers designers will face when companies don’t have privacy as a priority.

[32:50] What is the current challenge for the design community to tackle regarding privacy and transparency?

[34:18] Ramon suggest how and what design directors or design leads can do to drive the discussion of transparency when designing products.

[37:26] What can you recommend to design directors on how to promote privacy in their products?

[40:57] Ramon gives his views on government data usage and his thoughts on citizens awareness of data usage by the government. Ramon mentioned that every country is different and each citizen has a different perspective on how their government uses their data.

[45:05] Who is responsible to raise awareness for government data usage?

[51:48] I mention that the Transport For London told their customers they were going to use location data but I think it would have been better if customers could also had the ability to opt out.

Here’s What TfL Learned From Tracking Your Phone On the Tube

[53:11] We discuss the future of data privacy and the role of designers in this mission. Like all things big. The movement is slow but not moving.


Thank you to Ramon and Data Transparency Lab to take the time to share his thoughts with me.

If you have any further thoughts regarding this topic please feel free to write in the comments below.

Follow me on twitter Shirley Sarker to get the latest on Designersofdata.com