UX Design as Interface between Human and Machine or...
How are 'Data Protection on the Internet' and 'User Experience Design' linked with one another? This and many other questions were raised during the last workshop at the Scientific Center of Information Technology Design (IteG) on October 6th and 7th at the University of Kassel. The workshop with the somewhat long-winded title of "Democratizing Technology!? Participative Privacy by Design" provided an opportunity to discuss the various challenges of data protection in the internet alongside the legal and political implications.
Sebastian Ammermüller, UX expert at Micromata, explained what role UX Design plays in the context of data protection. His theory is that UX is the interface between human and machine with the aim of creating a positive experience for the user during its application.
The software supports a logical and intuitive approach, has an attractive presentation and offers various 'feel-good' features, such as providing the user with a sense of security.
"Even with the support of UX Design, there is a common practice in the internet to bypass or even completely erode the right to data protection." comments Sebastian Ammermüller. There appears to be a lack of information about how data is re-used and data protection settings are well hidden within a user surface. Furthermore, the application of so-called Dark Patterns is on the rise: users are purposefully driven towards carrying out specific actions, which in actual fact violate their own best interests. For example, unfair practices such as Bait and Switch, Forced Continuity and Forced Disclosure come to mind, whereby users are forced to provide personal data in exchange of a 'free' offer; data that really would not be needed in order to serve the offer. Sebastian Ammermüller stresses the fact that "... one must understand that there is no such thing as 'free' or 'at no cost' in the Internet, instead we pay with a different type of currency, namely our personal data."
An UX designer must therefore decide whether to play along on the bright or the dark side of power. Sebastian Ammermüller and the entire UX team at Micromata have made up their minds long ago: the user, a sentient, intelligent being with dignity and a right to data privacy is at the center of all decisions that are taken. This is in accordance with the Micromata convention, which stipulates that the company's know-how must be put to service in order to help create a better world with humane interests at heart.