Methodology for the creation of DaPIS

DaPIS is composed of 43 icons, organized into six conceptual families resulting from the legal and ontological analysis of the principles of the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR): 

  1. data types
  2. legal bases
  3. processing purposes
  4. rights of the data subject
  5. processing types
  6. roles.

DaPIS was inspired by the transparency requirements set forth by Article 12.8: information about data practices can be combined with standardised icons to give “in an easily visible, intelligible and clearly legible manner a meaningful overview of the intended processing”. 

The icons should be machine-readable.

First, we created a computational ontology of the GDPR (PrOnto – Privacy Ontology), which is a formal, machine-readable representation of the main concepts of the regulation and the relationships between them. For example, any type of personal data processing must be based on a legal basis.

This allowed us to

a) easily determine the relationships between legal concepts and mirror them faithfully in the visual representation

b) associate semantic meaning to the icons by means of metadata in a machine-readable format (e.g., RDFa or RDF).

The elements of DaPIS are thus self-explainable and can facilitate searches, comparisons, and transparency of meaning.

Then we visualized the concepts mentioned in article 13 through a series of legal design workshops in 2017-18 at the Legal Design Lab of the University of Stanford (USA) and at the University of Bologna (Italy). Since the icons should be as understandable by end-users as possible, we invited jurists, computer scientists, designers, communicators, and even “ordinary” citizens to ensure a broad interdisciplinary spectrum of perspectives, experiences, and visual conventions.

We used recurring, modular elements to facilitate icon recognition. For example, personal data are always represented by a folder with a user drawn on it. We also used visual metaphors to increase the intuitiveness of complex concepts: for example, the suitcase-shaped data folder represents the right to data portability.

The DaPIS design cycle was iterative: after each workshop, we created one icon set prototype. Each prototype was tested for its comprehensibility and readability with a group of users, mostly young and educated. We integrated the feedback received into the prototypes created during following workshops. 

This is the fourth redesign of the DaPIS icon set (2021).