Transparency by Legal Design. Panel at CPDP2019

On January 30, the CRIDES (UCLouvain) and the Université Saint-Louis organised the first panel centred on legal design at the 12th International Conference “Computer, Privacy and Data Protection” (CPDP2019).

Within one of the most important events in the data protection panorama, we had a fruitful discussion on legal design and its interplay with the principle of transparency.

The GDPR has expressly codified transparency as a fundamental data protection principle. In particular, the Regulation requires that information notices, communications to the data subjects and requests for consent must be drafted “in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language”, highlighting the importance of taking the target audience into consideration (e.g. in case the information is addressed to children). Along the same line, the proposed ePrivacy Regulation moves towards new transparency obligations. But how can such a principle be implemented in practice? Legal Design is an innovative approach that can shed some lights on this challenge. It is an interdisciplinary field that combines design methodology, insights from behavioural law and economics, and IT to pursue a legal goal. With our panelists we discussed the foundations of Legal Design and shown some of its practical applications in the field of data protection.


Monica Palmirani, Professor of Legal Informatics at the University of Bologna (Italy)

What is Legal Design? What are its scientific foundations?

The Legal Design Manifesto: scope and rationale



“Communication is not a trivial task: legal theory and philosophy of law are two pillars we can rely on for communicating and explaining legal information”



Antti Innanen, Co-founder and CEO at Dot. (legal design consultancy firm, Helsinki)

Antti presented the practical experience of Dot. where they are helping clients to develop new and interactive ways to communicate privacy related information. He shown some examples they elaborated for the privacy policies of Estée Lauder.



“At some point we are going to laugh at the situation where are we now: do you remember the time when there used to be websites with privacy policies that were over 30 pages long? It not going to be like this forever, but it is difficult to make those systemic changes. Legal design can be very powerful to support such a transition”



Arianna Rossi, Ph.D. Candidate at University of Bologna and University of Luxembourg

Arianna summarised in 5 minutes her 3-years PhD project dedicated to the elaboration of a legal design methodology for creating machine-readable icons to accompany privacy policies.



“There are at least two problems in the current design of privacy policies: first, privacy policies are usually presented as a “wall of text”, impenetrable to the human eye, which is something that works against the will of people of being informed about their rights; second, these documents are usually very long, even if you are looking for a specific information… you lose your patience before you find it. Why don’t we use icons to present the information in a more meaningful way?”



Tom Norton,  Executive Director at Center of Law and Information Policy  at Fordham Law

Privacy indicators can play a crucial role in enhancing the awareness of users. However, there are several obstacles to their success. Tom explored what are the main hurdles for privacy indicators, drawing some recommendations for their successful deployment.


“Based on our research, we have elaborated a set of recommendations for making privacy indicators meaningful. First, policy makers should establish standardised set of evaluation criteria: so that indicators systems are not comparing apples and oranges. Users can go for platforms and services and get a consistent evaluation of what they are using”.



Christoph Schmon, Senior Legal Officer, Leader of the Consumer Rights team, BEUC

If there is a field where the need of transparency is felt more urgently, this is undoubtedly AI. Christoph critically discussed how AI is changing the consumer data market, how we are moving toward an increasing personalisation of information (e.g. dynamic pricing) and what will be the role for legal design.


“We have discussed that in data protection law information must be intelligible, submitted in a clear and plain language. I have to disappoint many of you perhaps, but this is not new, it is not a revolution. It is a copy and paste of consumer law that we had for decades in the EU and consumer law has struggled ever since to give meaning to this concept. Behavioural studies and legal design can help to realise the information paradigm in practice”.





Professor of Media Law at Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles and avocat at Daldewolf


Researcher at UCLouvain and Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles. Fellow of the Trento LawTech group

Posted by rossana

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