“Privacy policies that we have at the moment, which are these long legal documents, are important and they play an important roll,” said Florian Schaub, post-doctoral researcher at the Carnegie Mellon University Institute for Software Research. “However, these privacy policies are typically not useful to users and are not meaningful to them.”
Schaub has been researching ways to help users pay more attention to the privacy policies of apps, software and websites. He is in the process of building best practices that can be adopted by content creators.
“How can these dialogs be integrated into how you interact with an app or with a website so it’s not annoying, so it’s not obtrusive but it is actually helping you achieve whatever you want to achieve in that moment with that app.”
Facebook and Apple have started to move in this direction.
But Schaub said users need to be able to opt in and out of specific portions of the privacy and data collection policy without causing the entire app to shut down.
“For example, if you are using an app and it wants to access your location because you are looking something up on a map, then of course your location needs to be accessed at that point in time, but when that same app is also tracking your location when you are not even using it, then maybe that is something you are not OK with,” Schaub said.
But why would a company want to potentially miss out on collecting valuable data by helping users know what is in that dense set of legal language? Schaub said there are good reasons for a company to be as transparent as possible.
Schaub said studies have shown that when users are well informed about data practices, it builds user trust and they are willing to share more data.
Schaub’s work has been hailed by privacy advocates and was included in a discussion on the subject of an industry wide gathering last week in Washington D.C.