Pattern from Perzil and Kane

Pattern: Policy Statement

Problem

How do you establish sufficient trust with users so that they will provide personal information?

Context

You are a developer building a WWW application in which forms are used to gather user input.  The application gathers information that the user might consider sensitive, such as email address, phone number, age, etc.

Classification

Forces

Solution

Provide a detailed statement of how the information you gather will be used. Write the policy statement so that it is consistent with your actual practices. For example, if you are able to ensure the confidentiality of submitted information, then make sure that is communicated in the policy statement. Place these statements in a prominent location on the forms.
What constitutes a good policy statement varies based on the context, but many give users the option to request that information not be shared with other firms or sites. Others give users the ability to control whether they received solicitations as a result of sharing their information.  The Center for Democracy and Technology has published some guidelines for evaluating privacy policies. [CDT99]

Rationale

Users are sensitive about protecting their privacy online, and in particular they are concerned about data being collected by a site and being sold to third parties.  [GATech98][Hoffman99]  However, they also understand and appreciate that there are legitimate business reasons for web sites to collect demographic data about their users.  According to one survey, over 72% of users said they would share demographic data with a site if only the site would provide a statement about how the information would be used. [Hoffman99]  If a site provides a Policy Statement that addresses users concerns about protecting their privacy, then the site should be able to increase users willingness to share information.

Resulting Context

Users gain a comfort level (or discomfort level) from knowing how the information about them will be used.  Users feel empowered to make an informed decision and not provide their information if they do not agree with how it will be used.

You may be more exposed if you have a security lapse if you promised to protect private data than if you had no policy at all.  Alternatively, if your policy does not offer assurances of privacy, having a policy statement might dissuade users from using the site.

Example

In the area of content distribution, the New York Times (www.nytimes.com) web site has two links from the registration form to two policy statements for registered users, a Subscriber Agreement and a Privacy Policy.

Ebay (www.ebay.com), an online auction e-commerce site, states their policy at the top of their registration form.
“Please Note: To be eligible to register, you must be over 18 years of age and provide valid contact information, including a valid e-mail address. eBay will not use any registration information for marketing, nor will we disclose this information to any outside party.”

A policy statement that might dissuade users can be found on many DoD sites. For example, see the National Guard Security and Privacy notice at http://www.ngb.dtic.mil.

Related Patterns

Policy Statements should be in a prominent location, and so the What They See is All They Get [Perzel99] pattern applies.

References

[Bradac97] Bradac, M. And Fletcher, B. ". “A Pattern Language for Developing Form Style Windows,” Pattern Languages of Program Design 3.  Martin, R., Riehle, D., Buschmann, F., eds., Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts, 1997.
[Brooks99] “Interaction Patterns,” ChiliPLoP ’99.
[CDT99] Web Site Privacy Policies, http://www.cdt.org/privacy/guide/start/privpolicy.html, as viewed on April 30th, 1999.
[Coldeway98] Coldeway, J., “User Interface Software” Pattern Languages of Programming 1998, Washington University Technical Report TR 98-25.
[Garrido97] Garrido, A., Rossi, G., Schwabe, D., “Pattern Systems for Hypermedia,” Pattern Languages of Programming 1997, Washington University Technical Report  97-34.
[GATech98] “GVU's 9th WWW User Survey Web and Internet Use Summary,” http://www.gvu.gatech.edu/user_surveys/survey-1998-04/reports/1998-04-Use.html as viewed on June 17th, 1999.
[Harrison97] Harrison, N., “Patterns of Input Processing Software,” Pattern Languages of Programming 1997, Washington University Technical Report  97-34.
[Hoffman99] Hoffman, D.L., Novak, T.P. and Peralta, M., “Building Consumer Trust Online: How merchants can win back lost consumer trust in the interests of e-commerce sales.” Communications of the ACM, April 1999.
[Lyardet98] Lydardet, F., Rossi, G., “Patterns for Dynamic Websites” Pattern Languages of Programming 1998, Washington University Technical Report TR 98-25.
[Mahemoff98] Mahemoff, M.J. and Johnston, L.J. “Pattern Languages for Usability: An Investigation of Alternative Approaches.” In Tanaka, J. (Ed.), Asia-Pacific Conference on Human Computer Interaction (APCHI) 98 Proceedings, 25-31. Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE Computer Society. [In Shonan Village, Japan, July 15-17, 1998]
[Nielsen99a] Nielsen, J. “User Interface Directions for the Web,” Communications of the ACM, January 1999.
[Nielsen99b] Nielsen, J. “Trust or Bust: Communicating: Trustworthiness in Web Design,” Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, March 7, 1999.
[Perzel99] Perzel, K. and Kane, D., “Usability Patterns for Applications on the World Wide Web,” Submitted to Pattern Languages of Programming 1999.
[Rossi99] Rossi, G, Schwabe, D., Lyardet, F. “Patterns for Designing Navigable Information Spaces,” Pattern Languages of Program Design 4.  Martin, R., Riehle, D., Buschmann, F., eds., Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts, 1999.
[Tidwell98] Tidwell, J., “INTERACTION DESIGN PATTERNS” Pattern Languages of Programming 1998, Washington University Technical Report TR 98-25.
[Tullis97] Tullis, T.S. and Pons, A.  “Designating Required versus Optional Input Fields”, Proceedings of the Computer Human Interface Conference of the ACM, Atlanta, Georgia, 1997. Late-Breaking/Interactive Posters.
 
An example pattern prepared for the Usability Pattern Language Workshop at Interact '99