Privacy Icons to help us understand web privacy

Mozilla has released the first alpha version of Privacy Icons, an open initiative that aims to simplify the complexities of web sites’ privacy policies, so you can really know what happens with data you provide the site.

From top to bottom, the icons tell if personally identifiable data you provide to the web site (like your email address, name, IP address) is used for the intended use only or not, if it is sold or not, if it is made available to advertisers, for how long is data retained, and whether it hands personal data with or without the necessary legal process.

Of course, images won’t make a difference by themselves. The idea is to have these icons linked to privacy policies, so that you can be assured that no matter how long it is, or what jargon it uses, the web site operator complies with the statements the icons represent.

Even better, the icons will be used in machine readable form, so web browsers (and user agents in general) can display the necessary interface elements to let you know what happens to your data. By default, the web browser would assume the poorest privacy terms, and let you know as this.

This should encourage web site owners to make the necessary changes to their sites, so that browsers present the appropriate information.

Privacy Icons is a Drumbeat project, and your comments are welcomed.