Privacy Tech | 'Design Jam’ provides new approach to data transparency and control Related reading: Design Jam to focus on privacy solutions

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Earlier this month in Berlin, Germany, organizations including service innovation consultancy Work Play Experience, business consultancy Ctrl-Shift, the University of Southampton, and Facebook piloted a unique workshop — called a Design Jam — dedicated to re-inventing the way we help people understand and manage how their data is used. Our goal: use design thinking the methods used by designers to make technology usable and our lives simpler — to give people better visibility and control over their data.

Technology is becoming smarter and more intuitive all the time — smart thermostats adjust their temperatures depending on whether someone is home, cars adjust their seating positions depending on who is driving, and navigation apps suggest alternative routes to avoid traffic. Data drives these advances, but people need better ways of understanding how it all works. While legal documents are important, we need to couple them with people-centric design that consumers find engaging and intuitive.

What does people-centric design mean?

Design jam image 1

Empathy: Getting out in the streets and onto Skype

It means products, user interfaces, and experiences that are built around how real people behave and what they expect and want. The best designs come from diverse perspectives. With this in mind, the Design Jam brought cross-industry experts from the fields of service design, user experience, behavioural science, and product development together with policymakers and regulators to collaborate in person. Joined by participants from organisations including The Financial Times, Adidas, Microsoft, University of Trento, the United Kingdom Cabinet Office, the Centre for Information Policy Leadership, and a delegation from the Privacy Bridges Project, we set out on a mission: create designs that help people understand and control the way services use their data, and make sure the designs build trust, transparency, and control while also delivering a frictionless, enjoyable experience. Participants went from brainstorms to prototypes to in-the-wild testing in three action-packed, high-energy days.

We structured the Design Jam around three core principles.

1. Put people front and center

Effective solutions start with listening to people — understanding what they want, what their concerns are, and how they like to receive information and make choices. To this end, we took to the streets of Berlin to interview people with different perspectives on personal data. And we used Skype to have more in-depth conversations with a mix of people based on their backgrounds, demographics, and general attitudes toward privacy and data. Based on those insights, we set out to create user-interface design templates that reflect how people actually behave and interact online. 

2. The mix of perspectives matters

Design jam image 2

Collaborating with people from different backgrounds at every stage

Traditionally, service designers and policy experts have worked on trust and transparency challenges in separate camps. But, we believe that in order to create solutions that are useful to people and businesses and that regulators believe in, you need diverse perspectives from the outset. In line with this thinking, we split participants into teams with a mix of disciplines and backgrounds.

In feedback so far, participants have said that working with other disciplines, often for the first time, was critical to the effort. One Senior Policy Officer from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office said working with designers gave him a fresh perspective that he would take back to the ICO. “For there to be transparency and accountability, people need to understand what’s happening with their data. Effective design can help to achieve that.” He noted this was especially important with new data protection regulation coming into force across Europe next year.

3. Create real-world solutions

Success means channeling the Jam’s efforts towards real-world implementations. That's why we focused heavily on prototyping and user-testing the ideas with real people. First, each team created a persona to design for — like ‘Anke,' a 25-year-old woman from Berlin who worries about sharing her data online but doesn't have time to research how she can protect her privacy, which she regrets. 

Next, teams turned the ideas with the most potential into working prototypes of apps and tested them with consumers via Skype. At each stage of the design process, teams took feedback and revised again, creating real templates as opposed to ideas for solutions. To understand how people would interact with a concept, teams also used props like Lego, Playmobil, and Play Doh to play out and test use cases.

Looking ahead

This Jam was an experiment and we’re excited by its success. It won't be a one-off. If we are going to make a lasting impact, we need to take the approach here and scale it. The ultimate goal is to create a system in which design jams for trust, transparency, and control become common and frequent. Our hope is also that the templates and design patterns become available for everyone to take, replicate, learn from and build on. The best ones would go on to be rigorously tested and refined. The collaborative spirit and energy people brought to the challenge were inspiring and we look forward to planning the next jam later in the year.

Images courtesy of Design Jam

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