Makaela Stephens, Designer/Researcher, Nava Public Benefit Corporation
Kelli Ho, Designer/Researcher, Nava Public Benefit Corporation

Plain language templates for government agencies to share privacy policies during user research

USE THESE OPEN SOURCE TEMPLATES AND A STEP-BY-STEP CHECKLIST TO ENSURE YOU'RE PUTTING THE PROPER SAFEGUARDS IN PLACE TO PROTECT DATA YOU COLLECT WHILE DOING USER RESEARCH.


Team members analyzing interviews after a round of research. Photo by Xena Ni.

Team members analyzing interviews after a round of research. Photo by Xena Ni.

The problem:

Millions of people use government services every day. Whether you’re filing your taxes or applying for healthcare, too often, outdated technology and complex systems make these interactions frustrating. In an effort to make critical government services easier to use, some government agencies interview people who use the service before and while they're building. However, they run the risk of contributing to that sense of frustration if they struggle to talk to research participants about how they will use and protect their data.

As a public benefit corporation working exclusively with government agencies, Nava's researchers interview people who find themselves at a challenging time in their lives. Sharing with a stranger that you can't afford groceries or are in debt from medical procedures is difficult, but it's our job to create a safe space for them to share. As researchers, we must take on the responsibility of being stewards of those stories by explaining in plain language our process and ways we protect their privacy. That way, people are better able to decide if they want to take part in the research session, and they can easily see how we're using their information to make government services simple, effective, and accessible for people like them.

Solution:

To share what we've learned delivering mission-critical software that serves millions of Americans, we created a set of open source templates and a step-by-step checklist to ensure anyone who does user research is putting the proper safeguards in place to protect data government agencies collect while doing user research.

This checklist includes:

  • a plain language consent form that meets US government privacy standards. It explains how information from the research session will be used, who has access to the participant's data and how we keep it secure, and the participant's rights as a research subject. It supports a flexible process for in-person and has opt-in and opt-out options.

  • an email template to use when asking for consent

  • an interview script to explain informed consent during the research session

Who this is for?

The checklist is for designers, policymakers, and technologists doing user research with and for government. It's written in plain language and includes our favorite resources from governments across the world.

SCENARIO

You're doing research with people who are applying to a government food assistance program. You want to find out what eligibility documents they need to submit quickly and securely. In order for them to easily understand how the data you're collecting is being used, you use Nava's plain language templates to guide you and the research participant through the interview.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES