Friday, November 13, 2020

Have You Noticed Notice Chaos?

By Dale Smith, CIPT


Older privacy and operations pros remember the good old days when a business covered all consumer notice requirements by screening a lengthy “one size fits all” boilerplate Privacy Policy ending with the “I Agree” button.

Those days are now gone.  Modern in-force and emerging privacy laws are focused on true transparency as a consumer benefit.  Newer, emerging legislation is relentlessly spawning a variety of off--privacy-policy disclosures that businesses are mandated to present at consumer touchpoints prior to and at the moment when live Privacy Information is ingested.

Unfortunately, regulators have provided little practical guidance and thought leadership as to how these notice features might actually be implemented.  They have left operations and IT staff to implement just-in-time transparency without a guiding standard or specification. The result is the hodgepodge of notice formats and placement that consumers encounter today as they negotiate mobile apps and websites.  Viewed through consumer eyes, today’s privacy notices are confusing at best.  At worst, many remain obfuscational and noncompliant.

Question:  What can be done today to channel this chaos into a solid and permanent consumer benefit?  How could privacy facts be presented to consumers in a more organized and standardized way that would promote true privacy transparency now and into the future?

Answer:  Adapt the food industry’s “Nutrition Label” notice paradigm for disclosing privacy information  to consumers. Evidenced by its success since implementation many years ago, this format is relied upon and trusted by millions of consumers as an always-available, always-understandable prime source of nutrition information.

The inherent flexibility of the Nutrition Label paradigm makes it a natural to present privacy facts and information.  The title block and font are immediately recognizable and iconic around the world.  The gridded framework supports simple, explicit prompts, directly indexing to concise business purpose and sharing details about the PI about to be collected.  

And here’s the really best part:  Because the Privacy Facts notice is adaptively displayed on a mobile, laptop, tablet, or other “smart screen", it no longer presents as a flat image (as on a cereal box).  Boosted by technology, the label automatically presents ready for click/touch interaction.  Consumers can browse, select, and display specific elements of interest, then “drill down” into sub-layers and/or link into boilerplate privacy policy.  The presentation is simple and standard.  The consumer is in charge.

A  number of leading privacy-conscious industry players have recently recognized the value of Nutrition Label simplicity and consumer-friendliness. Procter & Gamble’s top privacy officer called for “Nutrition Label” style privacy notices at the 2020 CES show, and in June, Apple endorsed the concept by adding “Nutrition Style” privacy notices to the user experience flow within its popular app store. As industry attention and support builds, this writer believes that adapting nutrition label styling to privacy disclosure could lead to formation of a de facto standard. Need an honest opinion? Ask a consumer. 

Developers have coined the name Privacy Facts Interactive Notice (PFIN) for this new adaptation of seasoned, proven technology.  The paradigm can be seen actively deployed on the internet as ”Livestart” conversions are completed.  Live generic demonstrations can be coordinated by contacting the author.

Dale Smith, CIPT