The Privacy Patterns project emerged in response to increasing awareness around privacy issues associated with the collection, use and disclosure of personal information, combined with the lack of guidance or regulation for civil society organizations in the United States in particular. For this sector, service delivery related data – client lists, personal history or even contact lists can be particularly sensitive. Donor data is a critical business asset, and employee data often needs to be managed with care as well. A plethora of advice is out there – but without dedicated resources (e.g. a privacy officer or attorney specializing in privacy) to analyze, search and curate that information – civil society organizations are faced with (yet another) operational challenge with an increasingly higher impact and likelihood of a bad outcome.
In 2017, the Privacy Patterns team launched an alpha version of a simple, user-friendly website that provides the front-end interface to the mapping and analysis work. A limited amount of information is required from the user about their specific organizational needs (none of which is retained), and a simple query yields the recommendations. A beta version of the site was developed in 2018, and we are currently working on adding additional country-specific requirements and recommendations, focused first on countries that have privacy obligations in place for civil society organizations (Canada, UK, Australia etc.) The team has also created a wire frame based on feedback to update the look/feel of the site, and simplify the user experience.
The team deliberately adopted an iterative approach, as privacy obligations span the globe and data subject expectations grow and change regularly. Civil society organizations come to the site because they are aware of the growing need to pay attention to privacy as an organizational risk and they are particularly passionate about protecting their donors, employees and clients. We welcome the opportunity to continue to engage, grow and develop the site to meet the needs of the sector.
The Privacy Patterns project site is live (in beta release) for civil society groups to use to obtain advice and guidance on managing privacy concerns. In addition, we invite all user feedback on both the site, content and workflow through a survey (link below, under ‘Learn More’). We continue to maintain this site and provide it free of charge relying largely on volunteer hours. If you would like to get involved in supporting the project, either through design, translation, coding or another way, we’d love to hear from you. The project team is working with the Digital Civil Society Lab to develop strategies for sustainable capacity building, including working with funders to directly resource ongoing support for this work.