Privacy Icons

For a long time, new technologies have stoked anxiety over invasions of personal privacy. Nonlinear narrative anxiety – the dread that one’s personal communication would be seen by others – was prevalent in the 15th century. Similar fears about operators eavesdropping on private phone calls arose with the introduction of the telephone. And, of course, in the information realm, there are new worries about privacy. Data collection by corporations poses more hazards than benefits for most Americans, according to a 2019 Human Rights survey.

Companies that provide users with services (or products) have varying privacy rules. In most cases, they are contained in a lengthy and complex legal evaluation document. As a result of being bombarded with so many, most users seldom bother to read these kinds of policies. As a solution, controllers divide their policies, give simplified versions, or highlight essential sections when necessary. The usage of privacy symbols is one way to simplify the process. Controllers need to be aware of the drawbacks of this method.


Problem with Privacy Icons

It’s easy for people to misinterpret privacy icons because they’re oversimplified notions that use iconography that’s used for many different things. It’s possible to ignore key nuances even though you’ve thoroughly grasped the concept.

Things to Consider

  • Users don’t like to read policies that are frequently lengthy and complicated.
  • Some aspects of the service have the potential to put user data at risk.
  • Instead of processing their data without their consent, controllers hope that users will pay attention to the appropriate policies.
  • Controllers are always looking for ways to make their user interfaces more visually appealing while yet conserving space.


Consistently group and convey the meaning of a consistent collection of icons to the user. Explanations and icon pairings should be subjected to rigorous user testing before release. When icons are shown in context, users must be able to identify them.

If a user needs clarification, these icons ought to be willing to rise on their own. Use an on-hover tooltip or similar method to explain what the icon is trying to express. Machine-readable icons are also important.

Implementing Privacy Icons

Consider the following while selecting icons for expressing information:

  1. Avoid any misconceptions.
  2. Use icons that are known to your audience.
  3. Don’t change the meaning of icons that you’ve seen before.
  4. Maintain a unified look and feel for your iconography.
  5. To find out if there is any ambiguity, conduct a series of tests with real people and change as necessary. In the absence of an icon, a notion should not be presented in its entirety.

Even if an icon perfectly encapsulates a policy, always give consumers the opportunity to study deeper. Hover, tap, or touch mechanisms can do this. Using a tooltip to explain a policy can be helpful, but the whole policy should also be accessible. So, a context menu, especially on a single touch for smartphone users, may also be useful.


Users who are well-informed are better able to make appropriate judgments about how to handle their personal information. It is critical that symbols transmit the correct information because they are a fundamental aspect of any such interface. To use a service at its maximum capacity, users must first have faith in it. This drive for openness will go a long way toward fostering mutual confidence.

Such decisions can no longer be naturally guided by our evolved privacy psychology. So, as customers, we must be aware of our own privacy shortfalls and call on businesses to do a better job protecting our personal information.