Privacy Law

Icon Experiment Aims to Simplify Website Privacy Policies

Lawyers and coders are working together in an experiment to make website privacy policies easier to dissect.

Meeting at Mozilla headquarters Friday, experts read through privacy policies of 235 websites and assigned icons that will summarize their content, according to the New York Times Bits blog. Web users who use Firefox and install the plug-in will be able to see the icons.

“In effect, the pros will read those notoriously unreadable policies,” the story says, “so the rest of us don’t have to.” The experts had hoped to assign icons to 1,000 websites, but they didn’t have enough time to wade through all of the wording, or to agree on what it meant.

The story lists some examples of the icons that are being used.

• A site that sells users’ personal data to third parties is assigned an icon that is an orange circle with a dollar sign in the middle and an orange arrow pointing up, suggesting caution. A website that doesn’t sell such information gets a green circle and dollar sign.

• A website that makes personal information available to law enforcement without proper legal procedure is assigned an icon that is an orange sheriff’s badge with an arrow pointing up.

• A website that doesn’t specify how long it keeps user data is in a box shaped like a calendar with an infinity sign. If the website does specify a time length, the number of days is in the calendar box.

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