Meg Leta Jones, Sydney Luken, Jonathan Healey: Ethics Lab, Georgetown University

My Terms of Service Button

A SIMPLE BUTTON WORN BY INDIVIDUALS TO SIGNAL THEIR CHOICE TO REJECT OR LIMIT SURVEILLANCE AND GUIDE SYSTEMS TO THEIR PREFERRED TERMS OF SERVICE


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Simple machine and human readable buttons establish a means for individuals to signal their terms for collecting and processing their data to a surveillance system. This flips the existing arrangement wherein individuals are subject to the terms of service set by data collectors and promotes a design ethic to recognize and respect user choice.

  

PROBLEM

The problems with notice and choice on the screens like computers and phones include:

1) Volume: the sheer number and length of policies for each and every site and service;
2) Expertise: not many people could actually understand them, and
3) There is rarely an obvious alternative to the site or service that offers different terms.

Without screens, these unreasonable burdens that are placed on the individuals in an attempt to produce moral data practices are dramatically exacerbated. Individuals confront environments equipped with surveillance technologies owned and operated by entities beyond the reach of and unknown to the individual. The notice and choice mechanism for protecting privacy online is flawed, but offline it is entirely broken. In smart environments, reliance on notice, transparency, and access is not possible. Emerging technologies present an opportunity for change.   


SOLUTION

We propose a machine-readable, retro-reflective museum-style admission button that links to the terms of service selected (from a menu of 3-5 pre-drafted, color-coded preferences) by the individual and hosted on the My Terms Button website.

The individual simply has to choose from a selection of tiered privacy preferences, signified by the color of the button.

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WHO IS THIS FOR?

  • People who want to protect their privacy

  • Designers who want clarity about individual intentions

  • Designers who consider non-consent as adversarial

  • Designers who are unaware of objections to collection/use

  • Advocates who look to promote awareness of increased surveillance

  • Policymakers who search for simple, cheap, and immediate approaches to protecting privacy in smart environments

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SCENARIO

Sam leaves for work and is captured by neighboring door surveillance systems as they get into a driverless vehicle. They are then dropped at a coffee shop that recognizes them based on their face to pay. Then walking through the public park, two small drones fly above and a group of tourists take pictures. Sam finally arrives at their office building entering through a lobby using cameras to recognize employees and takes an elevator that knows his floor. In each moment of Sam’s day, their data was collected and processed under terms they never agreed to nor even were aware of.

If Sam was wearing a MY TERMS BUTTON, there would be a clear signal to the surveillance systems that Sam has declared the terms under which their data can be used. Designers can then better recognize the intentions and preferences of individuals moving through smart environments. No is an option for unwanted personal data collection, and it means no.

Additional resources / research