Polymath designer Aza Raskin has researched dark matter, created new interface concepts for Mozilla, and contributed to Co.Design. He recently departed Mozilla to launch a health care startup, but not before producing a batch of Privacy Icons that would allow enlightened websites to instantly inform users how and if their personal data is being exploited.
What kind of large corporate site, you might ask, would actually want to trumpet the fact that they're nefariously harvesting and pimping your personal data? None, probably -- and Raskin knows this. "Keep in mind that the target adopters of Privacy Icons are 2nd-tier sites -- the sites where differentiation based on privacy matters to their users," he explains on his site. "Think about the large number of sites which vehemently promise to never share your email address when you sign up for their service or mailing list. Those are the kinds of sites, which make up a significant fraction of the web, that would adopt Privacy Icons."
Basically, a site that makes its good intentions clear using the "white hat" versions of these icons will stand out from any site that doesn't use them at all. Kind of like Passive-Aggressive Notes, but for a better cause than shaming the person who stole your sandwich out of the freezer at work.
Raskin notes that these icons are "in alpha," which means we might never see them actually implemented on the web. That said, he's put a lot of thought into creating incentives for sites to adopt them -- such as making the icons machine-readable and hooking them into Firefox's identity-management technology.
It's a great idea. Let's hope Raskin practices what he preaches and embeds these icons in his own startup site, Massive Health, when it launches.