Can a Privacy Badge drive consumer confidence on privacy policy?

Can a Privacy Badge drive consumer confidence on privacy policy?
by Dinesh Achuthan | March 5, 2021

As a user/consumer, I always wondered what is in the privacy document or even in terms and conditions document which I blindly scroll through and accept. I talked with a few of my colleagues and friends, and I am not surprised to hear that they also do the same. When the privacy policy or terms and conditions are shown automatically, most of us tend to scroll over and accept it as we know there are no other options other than accepting it if we want to use the application. In the same line of thought, the visual display of sites’ and apps’ security was enhanced a couple of decades ago. We started to see trusted badges, verified by third-party badges, to provide a quick impression on the app/site security. There is a company called TRUSTe who started this idea of providing badges based on privacy policy two decades ago but now it is acquired by a different company and the idea of the badge has changed to drive more e-commerce business rather than to establish the intended privacy-policy trust with the end consumers.

My idea of a privacy badge originated from this idea of security badges, payment partner badges and other types of badges to instill confidence and trust with the end consumers. Why not provide a privacy badge or even terms-and-conditions badge either through a third-party service or via a self-assessment framework for any site/mobile app? Will this in any shape or form help the end consumer? Can a company or industry use this framework to assess themselves to improve their privacy policy? As a user, will it provide me some sense of security to see some badges instead of scrolling through pages and pages of privacy documentation? After thinking through and talking with few of my colleagues I started to think on how to create this privacy self-assessment framework through a methodological thought process and establish a scoring template to self-determine a privacy badge for any privacy policy. If we have such a thing, how would it look like?

I would like to share my approach with limited scope and validate whether it will work before embarking on larger scale. So, I constrained myself to US location and left EU’s GDPR and Germany’s BDSG and any other Asian privacy laws. First, I need to design a privacy assignment framework. What should be there in the framework?

1. I definitely want what an end consumer sees important for his privacy. How can I get this? I started to think about privacy related lawsuits in the past one decade.
2. I definitely want how a corporate or a company thinks about user privacy aligned to their business model. I can get this for any company through privacy policy.
3. Finally, I want something to map consumer thought to corporate thought via what is legally binding, which are the US privacy laws.

To stitch all the above three together, I decided to use the leading three academic privacy frameworks (Solove’s Taxonomy, Mulligan et al.’s Analytic, Nissenbaum Contextual Integrity) and below is the approach I used.

Assessment Framework Design and validation approach
1. Design Privacy categories based on 3 leading academic privacy framework (Privacy Assessment Framework)
2. List US Legal framework in consideration
3. Analyze the top 5-10 Privacy lawsuits and map to privacy categories to which the lawsuit fits.
4. Design Qualtrics privacy lawsuit questionnaire to get user perspective on the lawsuit categories
5. Design Qualtrics privacy baseline questionnaire to get user perspective on top 5-10 good privacy policies and bottom 5-10 bad privacy policies
6. Compute weights for each privacy category with inputs from the Qualtrics survey. Establish privacy score to badge matrix.
7. Compute privacy score with the assessment framework by evaluating 3-5 random privacy policies from the industry. Higher the score better the privacy policy and higher the badge.
8. Validate whether the badge fits with leading privacy experts.

Sample view of privacy score to badge mapping. There are further templates and charts which I omitted to include in this blog to keep it simple.

Assessment Score, Privacy Badge
0-25, Copper
26-40, Bronze
41-60, Silver
61-80, Gold
80-100, Platinum

Sample view of privacy assessment scoring template

I believe this framework will help both the consumers as well as companies. Companies and corporates can use this framework and start self-evaluating their privacy policies and at least get a basic understanding of their score. As a consumer I can get an approximate handle on the privacy policy based on the score or the badge.



US Privacy Lawsuits:
● New York Attorney General Letitia James announced her office reached a settlement with Dunkin’ Donuts over the handling of its 2015 data breach of approximately 20,000 customers. The settlement includes $650,000 in penalties, along with new requirements for data security.
● U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras in Chicago threw out a motion to dismiss IBM’s case over Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act violations regarding the use of facial images from Flickr, Reuters reports.
● Related to IBM, MediaPost reports Amazon and Microsoft are seeking dismissal of Illinois’ BIPA cases of their own regarding their use of the same images held by IBM.
● Facebook reaches a $650 Million settlement for facial recognition technology used to tag photos by storing biometric data (digital scans of users’ faces) without notice or consent violating Illinois’s BIPA.
● FTC and New York Attorney General fine Google and Youtube $170 Million for collecting personal information of children (persistent identifiers) violating COPPA.
● (badge image)
● (As claimed at Companies who display the TRUSTe Certified Privacy seal have demonstrated that their privacy policies and practices meet the TRUSTe Enterprise Privacy & Data Governance Practices Assessment Criteria. It’s fair to say that TRUSTe is no longer the preeminent trustmark to website visitors. Many have never heard of the organization or know of its history, and many other entities and regulations have stepped forward in the privacy and security space)