Categories: informnotify

Dynamic Privacy Policy Display


Controllers are mandated by various laws and regulations to ensure that users, their data subjects, are adequately informed before requesting consent. Failing this, the consent loses legitimacy and the controller may face repercussions. However, the main mechanism for supplying this information resides with privacy policies, which must also conform to legislative norms. The language this necessitates is long and complex, which jeopardizes the chances of users understanding it. This information can be summarized, and otherwise reworded to make the content more accessible to users, though typically the length of such summaries are still quite long.


Not all contexts are suitable for extensive privacy policy information, yet users often still need to be able to obtain additional data without breaking those contexts.

Forces and Concerns

  • Controllers need informed consent for collection, sometimes with limited screen space available, yet users do not typically read privacy policies on their own
  • Users do not want to spend time and effort reading through privacy policies
  • Controllers want users to actually use their service (or product), but users will not do so if the cost of doing so entails disproportionate effort
  • Users want to be able to get to using the service quickly, without needing to visit multiple policy pages


Provide the user with additional relevant policy information on hover or tap, by way of 'tooltips', to best inform them given contextual limitations. In a mobile setting these tooltips may unobtrusively become available to tap when the relevant control is most in focus (i.e. selected, centered, or occupies most of the screen).

This information may highlight the nature and potential consequences of the disclosure, and should be displayed consistently.


The information should be provided to the user where it is needed. Therefore the tooltip should appear on demand (i.e., need of information). This could be for example in a login dialog as soon as the user navigates the mouse into the concerning part of the interface. The tooltip should then be made visible to the user and contain all necessary information for making an informed decision.


By displaying the relevant [information pertaining to] privacy policies whenever they apply to what the user is currently doing or about to do, the user's awareness of what will happen with the information they're about to share is increased.

However, users may also happen to not trigger the tooltip, especially when using a mobile device. As such it is important that they are aware of its existence, and its importance, given the current context.


When a user needs to login and is given numerous options, with limited space provided, each option can have an assigned tooltip. These can appear on hover, tap, or scroll, where necessary appearing with less opacity until the user taps the tooltip itself. It can also lead to further detail through '(see more)' in a recognizable blue underlined hyperlink format. To encourage use of this a variant may either scroll through detail or show a visible scroll bar. Not needing the user to leave the application or webpage will require less effort on their part.

[Known Uses]

The PrimeLife HCI Pattern Collection (V2) features a prototype using tooltips to convey policy information on hover.

This pattern complements Policy Matching Display and Platform for Privacy Preferences. In both cases the solutions are different, but share the same context.

With Policy Matching Display, this pattern may add mismatches between preferences and the standardized policies to 'tooltips' therein. Against the Platform for Privacy Preferences pattern, however, they may work together to show the user how the privacy policy compares to user preferences.

This pattern may use Privacy Policy Display. While this pattern adds additional elements to the solution presented by Privacy Policy Display, it is a uses relationship rather than extends, as both patterns approach different problems.


S. Fischer-Hübner, C. Köffel, J.-S. Pettersson, P. Wolkerstorfer, C. Graf, L. E. Holtz, U. König, H. Hedbom, and B. Kellermann, “HCI Pattern Collection - Version 2,” 2010.

C. Graf, P. Wolkerstorfer, A. Geven, and M. Tscheligi, “A Pattern Collection for Privacy Enhancing Technology,” The Second International Conferences of Pervasive Patterns and Applications (Patterns 2010), vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 72–77, 2010.