Picture sourced from http://lawplusplus.com

The Legal Side of Design

We live in a litigious society and as a result of this, businesses, including digital content creators are bound to be concerned with lawsuits or litigation. Digital platform users are likely to sue for various reasons that can include issues that may arise when they make life decisions based on the information they get on digital platforms like websites and apps. And this is where disclaimers and privacy policies come into play. I am at the early stage of design for my senior project in College. The design goal of this project is to create a mobile app where international students would be able to access relevant online resources that help them settle down smoothly into a new country.

I have gone through the gruesome process of reading some privacy policies, and they can be very lengthy and uneasy in the eye. And the impression I get is that they are trying to protect themselves from any future legal suite that may come from the use of their platform. You often get to see introductory statements like “we have made every effort to ensure that every information included on is accurate. However, we make no guarantee as to the absolute accuracy of the information.” And even though statements like this make it clear that users should still consult directly with the appropriate source, it is still possible for users to assume that the information provided is absolutely accurate.

“we have made every effort to ensure that every information included on is accurate. However, we make no guarantee as to the absolute accuracy of the information.”

Currently, I am in the development phase for my senior project. I have been through the stage of thinking about what I would be working on. I am designing a prototype and testing to see how users would interact with my device. For long while I had been a user of designs and now I am now designing what other users would use. And one important part of this process is thinking about the legal side of things. Considering every scenario that could involve the law in my senior project has helped me learn a lot about privacy policies.

One of the first things I learnt from my readings is how legally binding agreements have evolved from pen, paper and lawyers to the simple act of clicking of a button when you agree to the terms of an app or website. Many users do not bother to read through these terms and they click on the agree to button without realising that a legally binding process just took place. One way I can apply this knowledge to my senior project is to create user-friendly private policies that users can read and understand.

I also took a step further to study privacy policies and agreements in digital platforms that offered services that were similar to what I was working on in my senior project. One that really caught my attention was WhistleOut’s privacy policy. I find what they do to be similar to what I want to do because their website serves as a channel through which users can access mobile data plans. They bring together the various plans offered by mobile data provider networks and give users an opportunity to compare and contrast, make their choice on what network provider they want to be with.

Like WhistleOut, the goal of my project is to guide users through the process of making purchase decisions based on content that was not originally created on my platform. Their privacy policy starts out by giving a scope of what the privacy covers by stating that the “Privacy Policy applies solely to this Site, and does not apply to third-party websites that are linked from or to this Site.”  Users are therefore encouraged to carefully read the privacy policies of such third-party websites. I will be applying this idea to creating legal content for my senior project.

A lot of privacy policies go into details to explain what kind of information is collected when a user visits their websites. In the process, I am learning about what goes on below the surface as surf the web. For example, in Canada.ca’s Privacy Policy, I am learning about the nature of the internet and how web servers can collect information about a user’s visit to a website. They go into details to explain what personal information is and how it differs from general information. They touch on legal issues by referring users to the federal Privacy Act, where they can learn more about their rights.

All in all, I am learning about how the general information collected can be used to improve the user experience. In addition to this, users have the right to opt out of any legal agreement. In conclusion, I can now see how important terms of agreements, disclaimers and privacy policies are. In addition to protecting you as an online service provider from legal complications, it is important that they are written in a user-friendly way so that online users can know what they are getting into when they click the agree button.

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