Giving Up Privacy for the Sake of Convenience

By Clemente Miller, Sr. UX Designer

Have you ever taken the time to read the terms & conditions for the updates to your favorite apps? I attempted once, but then quickly found myself falling asleep at my desk. Or, how about the many accounts that we’ve abandoned and shoved in the digital junk drawer and never deleted? Is Myspace still a thing? Apparently it is, because I just checked and didn’t see Justin Timberlake anywhere!

The concerns of privacy on the web are no stranger to anyone, but what is not clear is just how much privacy we have. The moment your information tethers to a network you’re at risk of having your privacy and information exposed. As UX professionals, it’s important for us to be mindful of users’ privacy. We need to design the appropriate touch-point feedback and bring awareness to the right information in order to gives users the transparency they deserve.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

When we look at the terms & conditions trap we find ourselves in, we are more apt to hit the “agree” button and not spend the time to actually read it. Well everyone, as you guessed, that’s by design. Users have been conditioned to hit the button more often than taking the time to read through the new terms & conditions. Nobody has the time to spend an hour reading through a 40-100 page update, and the way they’re laid out and written… don’t get me started on that!

As those responsible for user experience design, there are small improvements we can make that will have a huge impact and give the users the transparency they deserve when it comes to their digital assets and privacy. We need to strongly advocate for these “moments of transparency” on every product to identify, document, and design for where said transparency is most important within the product experience.

One small improvement that you can make to the terms & conditions is to bubble up the relevant information for the updates that the software is wanting you to agree to. Here’s an  example for how we can improve this “moment of transparency”:

Two key components to keep in mind regarding improvements are:

  • Surface the key updates in a concise and consolidated way.
  • Provide supporting links to updates to easily access the additional details.

Users can easily scan the updated content and take a deep dive into the specific details should they feel compelled to. This small improvement provides transparency that gives your users the confidence they need to continue trusting you, your product, and builds brand loyalty as they believe you are operating with their best interests in mind, in an ethically-sound way.

Can you smell that? Yes, that’s your dead accounts stinking up the place.

Digital clutter is everywhere and it stinks I tell ya! We all have numerous dormant accounts that pollute the web. The lack of deactivation leaves us in a state of vulnerability and open to potential hacking. Here is another good opportunity to be transparent with your users and help them help themselves when it comes to the susceptibility their dead accounts can put them in.

Now I understand there are business KPIs (key performance indicators) that might say otherwise, but we need to get out of the market of false KPIs. Going from “These accounts haven’t been active in a long time, but look at all these members that signed up!”  and more into the “Look at all of the daily active users we have!” There’s a big distinction between the two and the latter indicates that you have something valuable that keeps people engaged, but I digress.

Dropbox is an excellent example of having static content, or in my case, static devices still synching with each other. I was fiddling around in the account portion of Dropbox and stumbled across all of my connected devices. Uhhhh, I had so many devices connected that I haven’t been using in years!! I had over ten devices still connected to my account and all I could think was “Are the crazies I once gave access to my account going to sabotage all my files?” or “Shoot, does that iPad I gave away still synch with my Dropbox?” A moment of panic rushed through me and I immediately started deleting all of my old devices like I was playing a game of Space Invaders on Atari.

I’m not the only one that has experienced an “oh no!” moment when it comes to their online accounts or connected devices. It’s an obligation for UX designers to be mindful of these moments of fear and leverage it as an opportunity to enrich users’ product experiences. A user should never be inflamed with fear while using a product, so here’s one example of how this could be solved in order to minimize these moments of angst and vulnerability.


Two key components to keep in mind for improvement are:

  • In a non-intrusive way, surface important details through pop-up notifications.
  • Provide a CTA (call to action) to empower users to take action on the notification.

The above example is one approach to provide awareness and transparency for the user to be in-control of their digital environment. From there it’s up to the user to take that action or not, but the UX designer has done their part by “designing for transparency.”

There’s an obligation for us in the tech world, both on the agency and client side, to be mindful of people’s privacy and the digital landfills we are creating on the web. KPIs are critical for acquisition. However, those same KPIs need to take into account long-term engagement and brand loyalty (which is ultimately best for business) and that spans far beyond initial user acquisition.

We need to advocate for transparency at every opportunity we can, because transparency allows users to remain confident in their decisions as they are in a constant state of digital choice. Think of product offerings like human interaction – people choose who and what they want to invest their time and energy with, and therefore, the power is always in the hands of the user. Everyone wants to develop relationships with people they can trust. Are you missing an opportunity to gain or enrich even more trust with your users by being transparent with them?

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