Privacy goes iconic


40 law and design students created together privacy icons

Privacy goes iconic was the motto of our course „design of data protection icons” that we held in cooperation with Klasse Kartak of Graphic Design at the University of Applied Arts Vienna for the first time this semester. Some 20 students of law and just as many of design were tasked with a challenge many tried before: Making privacy visible.  Alexander Albrecht, who initiated the project, was joined by three professors, each with a different approach to the project at hand: Oliver Kartak from the University of Applied Arts, Peter Purgathofer from the Human Computer Interaction Group at TU Wien and Nikolaus Forgó from our Department. At the kick-off meeting in the beginning of November, law students Johanna Göschlberger and Sebastian Weny explained the legal framework of the project to the interdisciplinary group of students: Article 12 (7) GDPR states that in addition to the information provided by the data controller standardised icons can also be displayed to inform users. From a design point of view, Oliver Kartak explained the goals of the project: Data subjects should be able to see at a glance what risks the envisaged data processing entails. In the following weeks, “risk-based approach” would become known as his standard sentence.

Ten teams were established, each with their own ideas and plans for the weeks ahead. The lawyers’ task was to analyse the GDPR and determine how it regulates risks. Then to decide what information is worth displaying to the user. The designers were working on how to make abstract legal concepts tangible and easily understandable for the data subject, while also making sure the designs were consistent and visually pleasing. During the four weeks of the project our Wednesday, 10 a.m. meeting became a fixed point in all of our schedules as a time to discuss the progress of the project and give feedback. The team of teachers supported the student groups and reviewed their designs: What are the legal reasons behind your selection? Are the icons still recognisable at a small size? Is the design inclusive?

The date that everybody was working towards was the 11th of December – the day of the final presentations. The jury, consisting of Alexander Albrecht, Oliver Kartak, Peter Purgathofer, Nikolaus Forgó and Erwin Bauer were attentively listening to the presentations and pointedly commenting on the designs. After a little party following the presentations, it is now time for their deliberations. We will know in January, whose project will be further developed, refined and – who knows – maybe soon be published in the Official Journal of the European Union.