Categories: informprovide

Privacy Policy Display


Privacy policies are an important element in the processing activities of a controller. They not only relay to data subjects, the users, crucial aspects about the processing in question, but also adhere to the laws which mandate those policies. Balancing the accessibility of these policies however with the legal comprehensiveness needed is nontrivial. As such users do not naturally familiarize themselves with privacy policies as they need to be verbose, and often complex, to comply with the law. It is therefore necessary that controllers ensure that users are indeed informed before soliciting their consent.


Whenever the user's information is requested, it must be clear to them exactly what information is needed, who requests it, and what will be done with it.

Forces and Concerns

  • Users do not want to read extensive policies, but they do want to understand any relevant risks
  • Controllers need users to understand specific policy elements in order to legally process their data
  • Users would rather be provided with relevant and ideally concise information than all of it at once
  • Controllers want users to trust that they are not trying to hide the risks of using the system


As requests for personal data are made, state clearly what information is needed by whom, for which purposes, and by what means, prior to soliciting consent.


The Article 29 Working Party of the Data Protection Directive of the European Union have set out recommendations regarding the distribution of policy into a layered format. They suggest three tiers, each providing additional detail. Users should have clearly visible access to successive detail upon the controller's request of the related personal data.

The first tier, 'short notice', shall offer core information necessary for users to understand the purposes and means of processing. It should provide a clear mechanism to obtain further detail. This tier is aimed towards maximum user understanding.

The second tier, 'condensed notice', includes a summary of pertinent information as required by Article 13 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the successor to the Directive. This non-exhaustively includes additional information regarding contact details of applicable entities, legal basis or obligation, legitimate interests, recipients, retention, data subject rights, and whether automated decision making is in use.

The third tier, 'full notice', presents all remaining information required by the GDPR in addition to the previous information. This is the variation which expresses the full detail of the policy which best holds up the legislative requirements.


By constantly reminding users what it really means to share their information, they will better contemplate the personal data they choose to provide. However, users may also become fatigued or otherwise desensitized by frequent reminders and begin to overlook privacy policies. As such it is important to balance the levels of visibility and implicit severities of the information conveyed.

This pattern may be used by Dynamic Privacy Policy Display and Policy Matching Display. The first of these uses it to add standardization and 'tooltip' functionality, while the second adds preference and policy mismatches.

This pattern complements Privacy Aware Wording, Layered Policy Design, Platform for Privacy Preferences.

The complementary relationship with Platform for Privacy Preferences however, is implicit. It is made so by the use of this pattern by Dynamic Privacy Policy Display, which has a complements relationship with Platform for Privacy Preferences.

The complementary relationship between Privacy Aware Wording and Layered Policy Design stems from their use as accessible policies. As they seek to make privacy policies more easily interpreted by users, it is a natural aid to the display of information requests and explanations within this pattern.


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.