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The Privacy Advisor | Program aims to help organizations design better privacy notices Related reading: Tool seeks to help manage, distribute privacy policies

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Greater Than X Co-Founder and CEO Nathan Kinch believes privacy notices and other legal agreement documents are missing something important: a touch of humanity.

It is one of the reasons why his company launched the Better Disclosure Program, a three-week course designed to teach organizations how to develop privacy notices that are easier for users to understand.

“It’s like these documents have been designed either for other lawyers or robots,” Kinch said. “We are trying to design these things for people so they can empathize with it, they can understand it and, most importantly, they can take action on the informed understanding they have.”

Kinch is ramping up the Better Disclosure Program at a time when the mindset toward legal documents is shifting. Kinch said years ago organizations didn't expand their thought process past “since everyone agrees, everyone trusts us.” Now that entities have begun to understand the importance of maintaining consumer trust, privacy notices have received more attention.

“They didn’t understand the broader context,” Kinch said. “They didn’t necessarily appreciate the broader sociopolitical context of the information economy, which is sometimes now likened to surveillance capitalism. We didn’t necessarily have as robust a picture of these things. I think the upside wasn’t well understood and the real downside wasn’t as appreciated or as scary. Now the upside is becoming more prevalent.”

A part of what drives the Better Disclosure Program is an emphasis on values. Kinch wants those who take part in the program to emotionally buy into the concept of fleshing out these privacy notices to better empower consumers. Kinch believes this makes Better Disclosure attractive to chief privacy officers.

“In my experience with CPOs, they are values-driven; they care about protecting people’s fundamental rights and freedoms,” Kinch said. “They often don’t have the authorizing environment within the corporate context to really do the work they want to do. I believe this is one way in which someone like a chief privacy officer can convert the values that they have, both explicit and implicit, into tangible outputs. They can take these results back to the business and say, ‘Here’s what we’ve done.’ I feel like that could be quite empowering.”

Organizations start the program by scheduling out the three-week course and identifying the individuals who need to be a part of the process. Kinch said Better Disclosure is not a “hugely burdensome” program; however, it is still important to have the key players take part in the process.

“Getting the right people is super important,” Kinch said. “If it’s a cross-functional product development team, maybe it’s sponsored by the (CPO), but it’s really important to get a couple of engineers in the room, business analysts, marketing people, designers, UXers, researchers and the legal business partners who are going to be responsible for this end-to-end product.”

Once those details are locked down, participants take a three- to five-minute survey to assess how they currently handle and view their privacy notices. Kinch said it is important to gauge an organization’s attitude toward their documents before they move forward with the next steps.

After the survey is completed, participants receive an evidence package containing academic literature, a toolkit and other resources on designing privacy notices and legal agreements.

“There are a bunch of reasons why we are doing that. One is to get people hands-on with this stuff so they feel more comfortable and familiar,” Kinch said. “The other is to increase the confidence that people have that this stuff can really be done. It’s not just some speculative thing that we are proposing.”

The toolkit includes a link to the IACCM Contract Design Pattern Library. Participants are asked to go through the library, identify a pattern they like and physically sketch it out on a piece of paper.

“The reason why we are doing that is we are trying to get them out of their normal context so they feel comfortable diverging and converging,” Kinch said. “Doing hands-on work and the pen to paper is really important.”

After the design is submitted, the organization will take part in a three-hour workshop during which the team will analyze and redesign the agreement. They will do this by using the Better Disclosure Canvas, which sets up a framework to assist participants in their redesign.

For example, those partaking in the program will be asked to list out their organizational values. Another section of the canvas covers the use of layering techniques to convey information. Kinch cited the privacy notice used by contract management software platform Juro as a vendor that used this technique.

After the workshop is done, the program is essentially over. Participants can either choose to implement their new notice with minimal assistance from Kinch’s team or they can have one of Greater Than X’s designers come in to take ownership of the installment.

As for who might be interested in Better Disclosures, Kinch said they're targeting individuals who are “frustrated by the status quo” around notices and agreement documents. As a smaller company, Kinch said Greater Than X does not have the resources to go after the highly skeptical, but in those instances, he said it’s a matter of showing the benefits of better notices, rather than telling.

“We made a strategic decision to try and identify the individuals, groups and communities that already bought into what we are proposing,” Kinch said. “We determined that by what they were saying, what they were writing, how they are speaking at conferences, what they are reading and the conversations we are having with them.”

Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

1 Comment

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  • comment Emma Butler • Mar 2, 2020
    This sounds like a good initiative. I hope they do not only focus on website privacy notices though. Obviously businesses vary in what they need, but a holistic approach to transparency is the best starting point. What information do you need to provide, when and who to? Just a privacy notice is often not enough. If you have a product or service, at what points in the user journey can you provide just-in-time information? Do you have FAQs or could you include privacy information in them? What can you build int call centre scripts? How will your information look on a mobile screen? Is it accessible to those with sight or hearing difficulties? There are many aspects to doing transparency well.