Just say “I agree”!

Only the last two years online privacy is a topic that started problematizing the masses. During 2016 the GDPR regulation was adopted by the European parliament and a massive campaign to inform the individuals about the guidelines before the typical deadline of adoption in May 2018 took place. In the meanwhile, a big scandal related to privacy leaks on the Messenger app pops-up. On that point even people that were not really informed about the technology they were using, started being aware about their privacy in the era of technology.

A lot of people could possibly find the use of the phrase “era of technology” a bit excessive, as the vast improvements in technology in the past decades, make difficult the separation of what could be included in the technology era or not. But to me, this era started just when discussions about the technology advancements became an everyday topic.

But as computers are nowadays a part of almost every individual’s (with access to the internet) life, the privacy should be a core topic of the design process and NOT the last one as mostly is. Someone could reasonably ask, in which way privacy could be a step of the design process, as till now every information related to privacy is “thrown” in a thousands lines page accompanied by dozens of links which are leading to further privacy info. Till now, I should admit that I am not sure if this chaos of a site’s privacy policy has an end.

Writing these lines, I am thinking that possibly this could be normal some years ago, when we were using the internet in order to achieve specific tasks, but in the same time I am thinking how this could work nowadays. As nowadays, we can possibly use an application only for a day and then delete it…or even worst keep it, because there was a need to install it in order to achieve a task faster. So, is obvious that the word fast does not include the exhaustive reading of 10 pages of “terms and conditions” but just a tick of a checkbox which symbolizes the silent sacrifice of our knowledge related to what information we are providing to the application and most importantly, who has access to them.

If this information could accidentally be visible in our social media, the exposure would be quite massive and the consequences most of the time unknown [1].What I am trying to underline, is that although we have simultaneously at least two personas that we are trying to shape, the natural and the digital one, there is a tendency of them to be combined in one [2].

So in an imaginary scenario how easy it would be for us to reply “yes”, if someone was coming to us with a document of 100 pages of terms related to privacy and an audio recorder, and was asking us “Could you please agree?”, the possibility of something like this to happen is quite low. But this is what is actually happening every time that someone is giving consent to a checkbox without reading the info provided.

Maybe this is the right moment to change the way in which we are providing the information regarding privacy. As it makes no sense of a procedure remaining the same, while everything around is changing.

Maybe a more fair idea than trying to find out about my rights after something unexpected happens, is to be informed before an action happens [3], with an intuitive way, as a well designed pop up box, which explains to me in simple words, what information that I already provided are currently used, which new information about me will be stored in the system, where and till when. Furthermore and amazingly important who has access to my information!


[1] Oliver L. Haimson, Jed R. Brubaker, Lynn Dombrowski, and Gillian R. Hayes. 2016. Digital Footprints and Changing Networks During Online Identity Transitions. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’16). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2895-2907. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/2858036.2858136

[2] Yee, Nick & N. Bailenson, Jeremy & Ducheneaut, Nicolas. (2009). The Proteus Effect Implications of Transformed Digital Self-Representation on Online and Offline Behavior. Communication Research. 36. 10.1177/0093650208330254. 

[3] Lin Y (2018) #DeleteFacebook is still feeding the beast – but there are ways to overcome surveillance capitalism, 26.3.2018.

Author: Tzanidou Alexandra

One response to “Just say “I agree”!”

  1. Matt Wood says:

    Interesting stuff Alexandra – you unpack how data privacy is arguably becoming more visible, demonstrate some of the current (and possible) problems around this, and indicate some possible responses to this. Some service providers have experimented with intuitive and simple ways of explaining their T&Cs, although I do wonder whether these come with their own sets of problems. Although important, the implications around T&Cs is very complex – having legal, social and political implications, and might be a problem out of our scope (or rather, very difficult) to solve as students of HCI. An easier question might be, what are the implications of a growing mistrust of big tech companies? Try to evidence links to the modules a bit more specifically – it took quite a bit of reading for me to understand that your argument relates to social computing. Your argument could be a little clearer – as it seems to evolve throughout your writing & it might be better to make this clear from the outset – which could lead to some more compelling conclusions. Anyway, some interesting points and well-evidenced.

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