When the Web was created, it was an unregulated digital space where anyone with access could create, contribute and share. The lack of structure and governance on the early web quickly gave way to increased surveillance and unconsented data tracking. We are now in a time and space where governments, corporations and web users are beginning to interrogate how the web enables the exploitation of its users. Wordy and confusing privacy policies and dark patterns encourage users to give forced consent to use services, data is sold for corporate profit and audiences are manipulated based on the information held about them. In the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook user data was collected without consent and used for political advertising and manipulation, governments have started to legislate how privacy, consent and access to data should be managed in the digital sphere. There are many jurisdictions which have already enacted laws in this vein, including the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as well as a wave of new state privacy laws across the US soon coming into effect.

Legislation is necessary to protect web users, but it’s just the foundation. We need to build on top of the legislation to prevent dark patterns used on the web. For this reason, we’ve made privacy one of our key priorities for the next five years (until 2029). We are going to contribute to the discussions around changing the web landscape as it relates to privacy, including (but not limited to) the dissolution of third party cookies, giving, revoking and gaining consent ethically, and the intersection of privacy and accessibility. We want to build tools that:

  • Empower web users to have ownership of their data,
  • Support companies in navigating freely given consent from users,
  • And contribute to web standards that are focused on the ethics and rights of web users as it relates to privacy on the web.

Historically, we’ve led and contributed to projects that have a privacy focus, such as:

as well as collaborated with organizations who specialize in privacy and transparency, such as:

This priority and the work we’re going to do in this space is grounded in our experience as web users and creators, but also as an organization committed to contributing to the open nature of the web. The 5th ethical web principal from the W3C states:

“When we add features to the web platform, we are making decisions that impact peoples’ ability to control their personal data. This data includes their conversations, their financial transactions and how they live their lives. We will start by creating web technologies that create as few risks as possible, and will make sure people understand what risks they are taking when they use the web.”

Similarly Design Justice’s 9th principle also states “we work towards non-exploitative solutions that reconnect us to the earth and to each other”, both of these principles guide our work in this space. Our commitment to privacy is to contribute ethical, practical and empowering software and web standards solutions that contribute to the safety of web users and safety of the web.

We’re excited to embark on this journey and create web experiences that prioritize and protect web users. We’ll be releasing more information about specific projects as they arise and will be actively looking for communities, individuals and organizations to collaborate with. 2024 marks the start of this work and we’ll be using this year to research, experiment and explore, we hope you’ll join us!