When was the last time you agreed to a privacy policy? Perhaps when you powered on your smart device, or when you visited your favorite social media outlet, or even now as you are reading this post.

So, the last time you read a privacy policy was…..

We live in a world where there are so many privacy policies and terms and conditions agreements that it could be pretty time consuming to peruse them each time we use the site, device, page, form, or service. So we often end up not reading them—not just each time of use, but ever.

For those of us who took a year or more of coursework on Contracts Law, that can be potentially problematic. Most people don’t really know what we’re signing up for at any point. We don’t know if our privacy is being protected—and to what degree.

That’s the problem

That’s a problem, a pretty formidable pain point. And you and I aren’t the only ones who think so.

Disconnect a startup that creates tools to let people manage the data they share online, was drawn to work on a groundbreaking project that could change the way we analyze privacy policies on sites we use every day.

Legal Hackathon – Nov 16th 2012 – at Mozilla Foundation HQ in San Francisco (#PrivacyIcons)

On November 16, 2012 the Mozilla Foundation and Disconnect hosted a Legal Hackathon at the Mozilla headquarters in San Francisco, CA.

The overall idea was to crowdsource the reading of privacy policies and to bucket major components  by designating a different icon for each bucketed response (i.e. “iconifying”)

privacy icons legal hackathon

Here are the 4 questions Disconnect uses to iconify privacy policies:

1. Does this website sell your data or share it with third parties or affiliates without your express permission, or as you’d reasonably expect given the site’s service?

2. Does this website collect and use your data other than as you expressly allow or as you’d reasonably expect given the site’s service?

3. Does this website disclose user data to the government and other third parties without proper legal procedure (E.g., the presentation of a valid court order)?

4. How long does this site retain user data after the service is provided or a user requests deletion?

Say for example, all sites that keep private data of users for 3 months get a square bubble with a large yellow 3 in it. Then, anytime you go to a site has that icon, you know exactly what that means. As of now the icons appear to the far right of a URL while browsing in Firefox, and once certain extensions are installed.privacy icons legal hackathon (2)It could enable us to scan a set of icons instead of warm up to the idea of reading entire privacy policies—which are each formatted and written differently. It could also encourage drafters of said privacy policies to be clear on key points of their policies and present their points in an easy-to-read way.


There were a number of speakers and introduced guests. A few included:
Casey Oppenheim (Co-founder, Disconnect)
Alex Fowler (Global Privacy & Public Policy Leader, Mozilla)
Laura Berger (Sr. Attorney Division of Privacy & Identity Protection, FTC)
There is also a complete video replay of the event, which can be found here:

Can reading privacy policies be crowdsourced? Should it be crowdsourced?

It was a question that came up from the organizers themselves, should the reading and evaluation of privacy policies according to the given ‘buckets’ actually be crowdsourced by users of the site or be reserved for individuals some how specialized or prequalified to review the privacy policies.
The answer is to be determined, and as of now it remains an open platform for anyone to review and iconify.
Want to get involved? Find all you need to get started here:

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