A couple of weeks ago, Pinterest announced Buyable Pins, which will enable their users to buy products directly from Pinterest on iPhones and iPads. Like any new feature, this one comes with data privacy implications: if I buy something on Pinterest, both Pinterest and the seller will have access to this transaction information–and possibly more about me.
I’m a Pinterest user myself, so last week I received this email.
Long story short: Pinterest and the seller receive enough information to complete the transaction, facilitate future transactions and make promotions more relevant to me. If I don’t want to share information to customize my experience, I can turn it off. Short, sweet and to the point.
I asked the Pinterest team what they were trying to achieve with the privacy language, and here’s what they told me:
Buyable Pins has been a highly requested feature, so we wanted to make sure the language for the policy was clear right from the start. The goal was for Pinners to have an understanding of why the updates are being made, how they can customize settings, and where they can learn more. The approach was similar to past policy updates, where we aim to put Pinners first and be as helpful and concise as possible.
There are two really important issues at play here: 1. people have been asking for this feature, so there is going to be a lot of scrutiny among the pinner community; and 2. Pinterest is now dealing with people’s money. So there’s a lot at stake.
Privacy Policies in Context
Two weeks ago, we at Altimeter Group published The Trust Imperative: A Framework for Ethical Data Use. The central framework in this report combines the data life cycle with ethical data use principles developed by the Information Accountability Foundation (IAF).
- Collection and Respect. Have we been transparent about the fact that we collect data?
- Communication and Respect. Have we communicated clearly about what information we collect, and why?
This is why our use of language is an ethical choice:
While dense and legalistic language may satisfy the legal team, clear and simple language demonstrates respect for the user.
You could further state that Pinterest, like many other ad-supported sites, is arguing that increasing the relevance of promoted pins is a benefit to pinners, which would cover Collection and Benefit as well. [That argument only holds up if users agree that the benefit is worth the exchange of data.]
But now that the framework is out, I will be testing it (and suggest you do too) against real-world examples, using the IAF principles and the data lifecycle stages to examine and illustrate examples of ethical data use in theory and, most importantly, in practice.