Categories: informprovide

Privacy Awareness Panel

[Also Known As]

Privacy Awareness Panel in Collaborative Workspace


Numerous services (and products) make an impact on user privacy in ways which are not immediately apparent to the user. Unaware and thus uninformed users are likely to make regrettable decisions in the services they use. Certain kinds of information, especially when combined or viewed over time by others, can reveal details about the user they did not intend. The consent for these disclosures cannot be valid if they do not understand the risks inherent in doing so. Controllers of such personal data therefore seek to minimize these risks.


Users do not anticipate the pitfalls of disclosure. They may be under the false impression that their activities are inherently anonymous.

This can manifest in the use of online services where a user shares information with an unknown audience using a pseudonym. Entities within can potentially discover detail the user does not intend, especially if the user loses track of who knows or has access to what. Providing publication history, or reusing aliases in various services, for example can have unintended consequences.

Furthermore, the controller themselves typically has more capability for identifying the user. If users do not know any better, they might behave or contribute in a manner which assumes they cannot be identified.

Forces and Concerns

  • Users sometimes want to use services without being identified, but do not know how to maintain their pseudonymity
  • Users want to understand what using a service might reveal about them to various parties
  • Controllers want to protect users from unknowingly making disclosures which are invasive
  • Controllers do not want to process any personal data without informed consent


Provide the user with reminders on who can see the content they have or will disclose, what is done with it, why, and how it might become identifying.


First, it should be made clear to users which persons will be able to access their contributions. Second, users should know that [controllers] get additional information about them for instance their IP addresses, browser versions, location information etc. and thus that they are not completely anonymous [within] the [service].


The potential consequences of content disclosure may depend on the service in question, and should be investigated in a general sense.

The user does not need to be shown every potential consequence, but rather must be aware of the need to consider their submission before disclosure. This may require access to an illustrative example to assist in conveying the risks in an accessible manner.

Prior to disclosure, controllers should primarily indicate the access capabilities of different types of users and entities. For example, those on a Buddy List, or unauthenticated users. Entities include themselves, their processors, and any third parties. Wherever this might entail personal data, purposes and means are also required before informed consent to the submission. If the user is already aware of these, reminders need not be as frequent and prominent.


Improved awareness of users about who exactly will be [and has been] able to see the [content they disclose] will hopefully make them consider [disclosure] more carefully.


In a forum setting, a Privacy Awareness Panel may include login and account information, any personalizations, as well as information relating to their browser, session, IP, or other metadata which can uniquely identify them to a degree. It could also show post and user interaction history, and what, if any, of this information is more widely available or public. The panel should be easily located and known about by users, for instance introduced on first use of the forum. Unauthenticated users should also have access to this panel, though there would be less information on these users.

This pattern is a component of the compound pattern, Awareness Feed. As such, this pattern may be used by it.

This pattern complements Who's Listening, Impactful Information and Feedback, and Appropriate Privacy Feedback.

Who's Listening, like this pattern, tries to show who can see disclosed information. It specifically allows for monitoring who accesses the same content as the user. Comparatively, this pattern allows monitoring what access is occurring and how it might become identifying. These could work together to have a more complete solution which covers released and accessed content monitoring.

Privacy Awareness Panel may additionally take analytical provisions from Impactful Information and Feedback to supply information on potentially sensitive activity. Appropriate Privacy Feedback provides essentially equivalent information to this pattern, together covering more contexts. However, these are also similar patterns.

This pattern is additionally refined by Increasing Awareness of Information Aggregation. While the problem this pattern aims to solve is overlapped by Increasing Awareness of Information Aggregation, this pattern considers past disclosure decisions which mirrors knowledge of more specific aggregation risks in general.

This pattern also complements Privacy Options in Social Networks, Selective Access Control in Forum Software, and Privacy Enhanced Group Scheduling.


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.

S. Pötzsch, P. Wolkerstorfer, and C. Graf, “Privacy-awareness information for web forums,” Proceedings of the 6th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction Extending Boundaries - NordiCHI ’10, no. June, pp. 363–372, 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.

G. Aggarwal and E. Bursztein, “An Analysis of Private Browsing Modes in Modern Browsers.,” USENIX Security …, pp. 1–8, 2010.