“Current privacy communication is not working”

Helena Haapio is an Associate Professor at University of Vaasa, where she teaches strategic business law. She wrote her dissertation on Next Generation Contracts and has contributed to Stanford’s Legal Design Lab‘s library of Privacy Design Patterns,  which covers examples of visual and interactive mechanisms for making privacy policies understandable. She’s also a contract counsel – or contract innovator –  at her own company Lexpert.

– I used to work as an in-house counsel and draft complex contracts – now I find myself simplifying them, says Haapio.

– Not just drafting, but also restructuring and designing: working as part of a lawyer-designer team transforming contracting processes and documents, requests for proposals, legal guidebooks, and such, converting these from text-heavy documents gathering dust in legal compliance binders to interactive business tools and toolboxes people actually use.

Helena Haapio will give a keynote speech on Legal Design and privacy communication at Nordic Privacy Arena 2018. She will also represent the Legal Design Alliance during the pitching round later in the afternoon, which also includes speakers from Facebook, PrivacyAnt, Claudette, Synch and Signatu.

What is Legal Design, and how is it relevant for privacy pros?

– Legal Design is an umbrella term for merging forward-looking legal thinking with design thinking. It puts the user in the center and applies human-centered design to prevent or solve legal problems, says Haapio.

– Let’s face it: whether we talk about privacy or other topics, the people who use legal information, documents, services, and policies are not being served well by their current design. Legal Design seeks to change this. So where privacy pros seek to provide better legal communications, systems, or solutions, they can find allies in the emerging field of Legal Design. In many areas of Legal Tech and privacy, the design choices made can have a huge impact on both the processes and systems as well as their outputs.

– There is a growing need for easy-to-use solutions, on the one hand, and for protecting the users, on the other. Legal designers can bring a new perspective by identifying and making different expectations and requirements visible early on, helping embed them from the beginning into the design specifications, building in navigation tools, affordances and signifiers, and asking questions such as: How can we make privacy communication work better? How can we visualize and simplify things? How can we secure successful implementation?

What are Legal Design patterns?

– Like engineers and architects, we lawyers, too, want to make something useful and usable for our clients. We looked at the work of engineers and architects for inspiration – and what do they do? They look for patterns. Software engineers as well as UI and UX designers collect patterns and create pattern libraries: common solutions to recurring problems.

– So we borrowed from them the idea of design patterns and started to create our own pattern library. Our very first was a collection of design patterns for contracts. We wanted not just to improve the content of contracts, but also their communication and presentation, with a focus on the needs of business users, successful business outcomes, and the avoidance of misunderstandings and disputes.

– Legal design patterns provide a way to learn from each other and other fields and to communicate complex legal information. They are not templates or strict recipes intended to be copy-pasted. Rather, they are adaptable structures that can be re-purposed and re-mixed to serve specific challenges. We expanded the idea from contracts to other domains, including privacy.

Can you give an example of legal design being put to good use in a data protection context?

– The UK startup Juro did a remarkable job creating a privacy notice that people actually read and understand. They used several legal design patterns to gain and retain the reader’s attention, communicate as clearly as possible, and avoid information overload.

– They first provide a short summary version of their privacy policy called “Your privacy at a glance”, which gives the key facts. Readers can then click through to the full policy if they want to read more. Showing information in this way, in bits, is an example of layering.

– They also applied other design patterns, such as accordion, showing an overview first and details on demand, letting readers drill down later, if they want to. They used conversational language, framing headings as questions users may have, borrowing techniques from the FAQ genre. They used floating menus and visual design patterns, such as a timeline, to map out all the privacy-sensitive interactions between the user and Juro, making the whole process more tangible and transparent. So they used a number of well thought-out legal design solutions that we will hopefully see more of.

What will be the main focus of your keynote speech at Nordic Privacy Arena?

– From many contexts we know that current privacy communication is not working. Most privacy notices are written by lawyers for lawyers: way too long, overly legalistic, uninformative, and unhelpful. My keynote will be on Legal Design for better privacy communication. I will introduce some of the work we and others have done to make legal information work better and easier to prepare. I will share examples of how different design patterns, especially visual ones, can help people navigate and make sense of complex messages. The goal of visualization is not to generate visuals, however, it is to generate understanding.

– I will encourage the attendees to see their policies and terms through the users’ eyes, and, where needed, simplify content and how it is presented. I hope they will be convinced of the opportunities offered by simplification and visualization, explore resources in our design pattern libraries, start experimenting with new designs, and share new and improved design patterns with the community. If they find this the way to go, I will encourage them to join the recently launched Legal Design Alliance, LeDA: a network of lawyers, designers, technologists, academics, and other professionals who are committed to making the legal system more human-centered and effective, through the use of design.

Fredrik Svärd
Secretary-General, The Swedish Data Protection Forum

 

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