How UI and UX can KO privacy
By Sam Pfeifle
“UX design wins,” said Will Dayable from the stage of Navigate 2013. “If it’s bad, it doesn’t work…UX trumps all. If you do really good UX, it’s not about the interface or the method of doing things with human beings. It’s whether you respect what people want to achieve.”
For the uninitiated, UX stands for User Experience, and Will Dayable is co-director at Squareweave, a developer of web and mobile apps, plus an all-around entrepreneur and proud Aussie. Dayable joined with Jason Hong, associate professor at the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon, to provoke the nearly 300 attendees at Navigate into thinking about how UX and UI (User Interface) affect the way people experience and understand privacy.
“What are the gaps between what something does and what people expect it to do,” asked Hong. “If it’s a big surprise, that’s bad for privacy.” Did you know that Angry Birds collects your location data? That the Holy Bible app does? That the Flashlight App does? Heck, the Flashlight app wants to be able to access the Internet without you knowing.
Why would it want to do that? Using Dayable’s logic, it’s easy to see that people want to achieve the ability to see better in the dark with the Flashlight app, and that likely doesn’t require location data and access to the Internet.
In fact, his team at Carnegie Mellon did a study to see how long it would take to read the privacy policies of every website the average web user visited in a year.
“It would take 25 full days if you were to read every single one,” Hong said. “Obviously, this does not scale.”
So, what to do?
Hong proposed, for example, something akin to the nutrition labels on food in the United States, where a quick glance lets you know what’s being collected and used and how far that might be from your expectations. He also noted when there is an explanation given for why certain data is being collected, it makes the user much more comfortable with that use. Maybe a dictionary app uses location data to deliver definitions that are regionally optimized, for example—“wicked” has a very distinct local meaning up here in the Northeast United States….
In the end, argued Dayable, good privacy UX and UI is about actually trying to communicate with users rather than slip one past them.
“The solutions that work,” he said, “have simple, transparent interfaces that are built with respect for the people using them.”
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