Mozilla designer proposes website privacy icons

By on December 28, 2010, 10:00 AM
Mozilla is working on a simple a straightforward set of icons that websites can use to make their often complicated privacy policies more transparent to users. The idea is to have a visual representation of how your personal data is being handled, with icons indicating whether it is shared with advertisers or sold to third parties, for how long collected information is stored, how easy it is for law enforcement to obtain visitor records and so on.

Mozilla lead designer Aza Raskin announced an “alpha release” of the icons and posted them on his blog along their respective explanations and variant with negative connotation. He wants the icons to work as a "bolt on" to existing privacy policies held on individual websites and potentially integrate the functionality onto browsers, so users how their data is being used at a glance every time they visit a website or sign up to a service.


Mozilla has not yet indicated whether this functionality will be included natively in their browser or not. Of course there’s also the issue that many websites purposely bury privacy disclosures in long legal documents and won’t be willing to adopt the icons if it brings a negative image to their business. Then again, Raskin argues that if enough websites adopt the “positive” privacy icons, the absence of the icons on other websites may become a warning sign to visitors.




User Comments: 11

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TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

This is a great idea, but I think the reality of it is suspect. No web site is going to want the "we sell your information" icon on their website. They'll find some way to either block it or fraudulently put up the "we don't sell your info" icon instead.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Is there going to be an icon with a stylized burglar mask and a dollar sign "Your data may be stolen"?

Guest said:

So which information stealing/selling icon does Facebook get? :)

Guest said:

Totally useless and may give a false sense of security.

Guest said:

@Guest1: A stylized person with a dollar sign for a head. Or something less scrupulous like two people, a back alley, and a jar of lube.

On a more constructive note, how would this exactly work? From what I understand, you'd really need something akin to a CA like VeriSign to give icons some credence, or a system like Web of Trust for a more democratic flavor. And then there's the judging process, since everyone and anyone is a lawyer on the Internet and can finagle with words as strictly and as loosely as they want in regards to what constitutes data retention, necessary information sharing to advertisers, and whatnot.

Most of the big sites would ostensibly qualify for red icons, anyway, but that won't stop people from using those sites on a daily basis. At which point people would stop caring if *any* site has a red icon or not.

In this end, this is all just a bunch of icons.

Mizzou Mizzou said:

Totally useless and may give a false sense of security.

Agree, it would be rather naïve to believe that sites out to steal your information are going to voluntarily post bad guy icons.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Guest said:

So which information stealing/selling icon does Facebook get?

The yellow nuclear sign icon?...A mushroom cloud icon?..Or maybe an icon with a big red cross through it?

With the line "Your data matters to Facebook" (in the sense that we want everybody else know what that data is).

matrix86 matrix86 said:

I think Mozilla's heart is in the right place, and I applaud them, but I just don't see this working out. Too many issues to run into with it. Nice try, though, guys.

Gars Gars said:

/off/ Facebook - what about a white skull with crossed bones on black background? /.off/

im with matrix86 and the other guys

nice try but useless

ucould2 ucould2 said:

benny26 said:

Guest said:

So which information stealing/selling icon does Facebook get?

The yellow nuclear sign icon?...A mushroom cloud icon?..Or maybe an icon with a big red cross through it?

With the line "Your data matters to Facebook" (in the sense that we want everybody else know what that data is).

"DOH" I just got on "the books"

I fell like a "clown" with a big red nose or a target on my backside

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

"DOH" I just got on "the books"

I fell like a "clown" with a big red nose or a target on my backside

Never mind. At least you know that there's about 500 million other people in the same boat. Including me

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