Thomas Norton


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Creation and Analysis of an International Corpus of Privacy Laws
Sonu Gupta | Geetika Gopi | Harish Balaji | Ellen Poplavska | Nora O’Toole | Siddhant Arora | Thomas Norton | Norman Sadeh | Shomir Wilson
Proceedings of the 2024 Joint International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC-COLING 2024)

The landscape of privacy laws and regulations around the world is complex and ever-changing. National and super-national laws, agreements, decrees, and other government-issued rules form a patchwork that companies must follow to operate internationally. To examine the status and evolution of this patchwork, we introduce the Privacy Law Corpus, of 1,043 privacy laws, regulations, and guidelines, covering 183 jurisdictions. This corpus enables a large-scale quantitative and qualitative examination of legal focus on privacy. We examine the temporal distribution of when privacy laws were created and illustrate the dramatic increase in privacy legislation over the past 50 years, although a finer-grained examination reveals that the rate of increase varies depending on the personal data types that privacy laws address. Our exploration also demonstrates that most privacy laws respectively address relatively few personal data types. Additionally, topic modeling results show the prevalence of common themes in privacy laws, such as finance, healthcare, and telecommunications. Finally, we release the corpus to the research community to promote further study.


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A Tale of Two Regulatory Regimes: Creation and Analysis of a Bilingual Privacy Policy Corpus
Siddhant Arora | Henry Hosseini | Christine Utz | Vinayshekhar Bannihatti Kumar | Tristan Dhellemmes | Abhilasha Ravichander | Peter Story | Jasmine Mangat | Rex Chen | Martin Degeling | Thomas Norton | Thomas Hupperich | Shomir Wilson | Norman Sadeh
Proceedings of the Thirteenth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

Over the past decade, researchers have started to explore the use of NLP to develop tools aimed at helping the public, vendors, and regulators analyze disclosures made in privacy policies. With the introduction of new privacy regulations, the language of privacy policies is also evolving, and disclosures made by the same organization are not always the same in different languages, especially when used to communicate with users who fall under different jurisdictions. This work explores the use of language technologies to capture and analyze these differences at scale. We introduce an annotation scheme designed to capture the nuances of two new landmark privacy regulations, namely the EU’s GDPR and California’s CCPA/CPRA. We then introduce the first bilingual corpus of mobile app privacy policies consisting of 64 privacy policies in English (292K words) and 91 privacy policies in German (478K words), respectively with manual annotations for 8K and 19K fine-grained data practices. The annotations are used to develop computational methods that can automatically extract “disclosures” from privacy policies. Analysis of a subset of 59 “semi-parallel” policies reveals differences that can be attributed to different regulatory regimes, suggesting that systematic analysis of policies using automated language technologies is indeed a worthwhile endeavor.


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Breaking Down Walls of Text: How Can NLP Benefit Consumer Privacy?
Abhilasha Ravichander | Alan W Black | Thomas Norton | Shomir Wilson | Norman Sadeh
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Privacy plays a crucial role in preserving democratic ideals and personal autonomy. The dominant legal approach to privacy in many jurisdictions is the “Notice and Choice” paradigm, where privacy policies are the primary instrument used to convey information to users. However, privacy policies are long and complex documents that are difficult for users to read and comprehend. We discuss how language technologies can play an important role in addressing this information gap, reporting on initial progress towards helping three specific categories of stakeholders take advantage of digital privacy policies: consumers, enterprises, and regulators. Our goal is to provide a roadmap for the development and use of language technologies to empower users to reclaim control over their privacy, limit privacy harms, and rally research efforts from the community towards addressing an issue with large social impact. We highlight many remaining opportunities to develop language technologies that are more precise or nuanced in the way in which they use the text of privacy policies.

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Intent Classification and Slot Filling for Privacy Policies
Wasi Ahmad | Jianfeng Chi | Tu Le | Thomas Norton | Yuan Tian | Kai-Wei Chang
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Understanding privacy policies is crucial for users as it empowers them to learn about the information that matters to them. Sentences written in a privacy policy document explain privacy practices, and the constituent text spans convey further specific information about that practice. We refer to predicting the privacy practice explained in a sentence as intent classification and identifying the text spans sharing specific information as slot filling. In this work, we propose PolicyIE, an English corpus consisting of 5,250 intent and 11,788 slot annotations spanning 31 privacy policies of websites and mobile applications. PolicyIE corpus is a challenging real-world benchmark with limited labeled examples reflecting the cost of collecting large-scale annotations from domain experts. We present two alternative neural approaches as baselines, (1) intent classification and slot filling as a joint sequence tagging and (2) modeling them as a sequence-to-sequence (Seq2Seq) learning task. The experiment results show that both approaches perform comparably in intent classification, while the Seq2Seq method outperforms the sequence tagging approach in slot filling by a large margin. We perform a detailed error analysis to reveal the challenges of the proposed corpus.


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Question Answering for Privacy Policies: Combining Computational and Legal Perspectives
Abhilasha Ravichander | Alan W Black | Shomir Wilson | Thomas Norton | Norman Sadeh
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Privacy policies are long and complex documents that are difficult for users to read and understand. Yet, they have legal effects on how user data can be collected, managed and used. Ideally, we would like to empower users to inform themselves about the issues that matter to them, and enable them to selectively explore these issues. We present PrivacyQA, a corpus consisting of 1750 questions about the privacy policies of mobile applications, and over 3500 expert annotations of relevant answers. We observe that a strong neural baseline underperforms human performance by almost 0.3 F1 on PrivacyQA, suggesting considerable room for improvement for future systems. Further, we use this dataset to categorically identify challenges to question answerability, with domain-general implications for any question answering system. The PrivacyQA corpus offers a challenging corpus for question answering, with genuine real world utility.