Making the Case for Evidence-based Standardization of Data Privacy and Data Protection Visual Indicators

  • Arianna Rossi SnT, University of Luxembourg
  • Gabriele Lenzini


Lately, icons have witnessed a growing wave of interest in the view of enhancing transparency and clarity of data processing practices in mandated disclosures. Although benefits in terms of comprehensibility, noticeability, navigability of the information and user’s attention and memorization can be expected, they should also be supported by decisive empirical evidence about the efficacy of the icons in specific contexts. Misrepresentation, oversimplification, and improper salience of certain aspects over others are omnipresent risks that can drive data subjects to wrong conclusions. Cross-domain and international standardization of visual means also poses a serious challenge: if on the one hand developing standards is necessary to ensure widespread recognition and comprehension, each domain and application presents unique features that can be hardly established, and imposed, in a top-down manner. This article critically discusses the above issues and identifies relevant open questions for scientific research. It also provides concrete examples and practical suggestions for researchers and practitioners that aim to implement transparency-enhancing icons in the spirit of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).