NEWS25 November 2020

CDEI to boost public engagement with online privacy

AI News Privacy Technology Trends UK

UK – The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI), an independent advisory body focusing on the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI), is creating prototype online tools to give the public more control and visibility over their digital experiences.


In a report called Active online choices: Designing to empower users, the CDEI followed up on its review of online targeting, which was published earlier this year. The online targeting review had recommended that regulators should encourage online platforms to give people more information and control.

The new report, which was produced with the behavioural science body Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) and technology think tank Doteveryone, investigated ways in which the tech industry can provide users with more control over their digital experience.

BIT said that using desk research, first-hand website audits and expert interviews with the tech industry, a range of design features and behavioural factors were identified that limited control over privacy and personalisation settings online, including on social media and web browsers.

These features and factors included the use of default settings, opaque language, inconvenient timing of prompts and excessive ‘friction’ to find relevant menus.

Organisational factors were also identified that could lead to disempowerment of users, despite work in the tech industry to increase engagement with privacy settings. For example, the research found that user control was often not a core design feature with clear parameters for success.

The CDEI’s research will contribute to the development of three sets of prototypes for improving people’s digital experience, focused on a social media feed, internet browser settings and a mobile operating system update.

The prototypes will then undergo qualitative user testing and online experiments with 5,000 participants. Results will be released in the summer of 2021.

Edwina Dunn, board member at the CDEI, said: “Through public engagement and consultation, the CDEI believes we can improve the design of many online services and help to shape user interfaces that further enable and empower users’ active choices.”