Design for informed consent.
Asking for and obtaining consent respects a person's right to autonomy and agency. For consent to be valid, it must be voluntary, informed and reversible. However, individuals should not be burdened with every decision. We also need strong policies that protect the privacy of individuals and groups.
Elena Silvestrini & Naomi Alexander Naidoo:
»Today’s technology falls short on consent. While international regulation such as the GDPR has enhanced awareness of the importance of consent, these measures often involve a very limited understanding of consent as rigid, inflexible and shallow. Consent is frequently demanded in exchange for access to vital products and services, and is rarely explained in a clear or accessible way. Meaningful consent – which must be voluntary (we are given a genuine choice); informed (we have sufficient information to decide whether or not to consent); and reversible (we can withdraw our consent at any time) – remains rare.
Inequalities and oppression strip people of agency by removing power and control. Informed consent is a necessary step to regaining that agency. This principle is important because a feminist future for technology must involve agency for all, especially those who have been marginalised, excluded or abused. A feminist internet must be based on informed consent so that people are empowered and enabled to participate in a way that works for them.
In recent years we have seen substantial progress on consent by technology companies and governments around the world. However, to build a feminist internet, we still have a long way to go.«
Who can inspire us with their work?
»The Consentful Tech Project is an initiative promoting consent in technology. They define consentful technologies as ‘digital applications and spaces that are built with consent at their core, and that support the self-determination of people who use and are affected by these technologies.’ To demonstrate what this looks like, they have adapted Planned Parenthood’s FRIES framework for sexual consent and applied it to technology:
- Freely given: In technology, if an interface is designed to mislead people into doing something they normally wouldn’t do, the application is not consentful.
- Reversible: In technology, you should have the right to limit access or entirely remove your data at any time.
- Informed: Consentful applications use clear and accessible language to inform people about the risks they present and the data they are storing, rather than burying these important details in, for example, fine print terms & conditions.
- Enthusiastic: If people are giving up their data because they have to in order to access necessary services and not because they want to, that is not consentful.
- Specific: A consentful app only uses data the person has directly given, not data acquired through other means like scraping or buying, and uses it only in ways someone has consented to.«
— Elena Silvestrini & Naomi Alexander Naidoo