Designing for Privacy in the Age of Digital Sharing


We’ve entered the sharing age—the mobile revolution allows us to share our cars, homes, and pet photos with ease. We trust companies to keep our most sensitive information secret, while at the same time posting personal information publicly. Boundaries between our digital and analog identities are dissolving. As designers, we make more and more products that collect user data and it’s time for us to have serious conversations about digital privacy.

I’ll be sharing research on five personas that I’ve developed around attitudes towards privacy. We’ll run through an exercise that helps you discover which personas match your own actions. You’ll gain a better understanding of your own attitude towards putting your data up online and have the tools to assess the attitudes of the people you’re designing for. We’ll take a look at a few key design patterns that companies have used to target different kinds of users and what they do that works well.

At the same time, just because people want to share their information with us doesn’t mean we should run wild. As designers, we have the responsibility to take care of our users and treat them with respect and integrity, and that includes their data. We’ll finish the presentation with a discussion of what kind of code of conduct we need to adopt as designers, and how to factor that into our day-to-day work.

Learning Outcomes

  • What are the primary types of attitudes people have towards digital sharing and which persona do I align with?
  • What are some of the ways we can design to match the expectations of these users?
  • What are the implications of these personas on the philosophy we employ as designers? What responsibility do we have to match or exceed these users privacy expectations?

Additional Details


This material matters because with the rise of social media, IoT, and the prevalence of online advertising, privacy is quickly becoming a designer’s concern as well as a legal concern. It’s no longer just about having someone click “I accept” to the privacy agreement, but is rather a moral issue about what you believe is the right way to treat a user’s personal information. As designers, we are nudging our users to share with us, but need to know what the boundary is and why.