Where privacy ends and transparency begins

  • by Henrik Eskilsson
  • 8 min
Face of a woman and biometric sensor data

We spend a lot of time thinking about the future and the potential of technologies like eye tracking and attention computing to have a positive impact on the world. In fact, our mission at Tobii is “to improve the world with technology that understands human attention and intent.”

Using eye tracking as a force of good 

In XR, on PCs, in vehicles, in medical devices, and for a wide range of other kinds of machines, we see new sensors being integrated all the time that provide a lot of insight-rich data about people.

Using the power of eye tracking as a positive force
Tobii Transparency
Sample of products with Tobii eye tracking

These sensors, combined with increasingly sophisticated AI and machine learning algorithms enable the devices we use every day to become increasingly responsive, and for applications to become more people-centric than ever before.

This is eye tracking

We believe we can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, enable new kinds of innovation, and profoundly change and improve the way that people interact with the devices and technologies around them.

We also understand that this dream — to make the world better — will only happen if people understand, trust, and eventually, at scale, embrace technologies such as eye tracking and attention computing. One of the most important first steps is to explain some of the benefits that come with devices that are better able to understand us.

For example, when combined with the right software and expertise, information from an eye tracking device can be used to help treat medical conditions such as lazy eye or improve the visual fidelity of a display via foveated rendering. The data can help a person to generate digital speech by moving their eyes across a keyboard or to evaluate proficiency related to vital skills like reading ability and comprehension.


Benefits come when people trust the application they are using and feel in control of how their personal information is collected, transferred, and used. If that is not dealt with in a trustworthy manner, it can lead to concern over privacy and integrity and slow down the large-scale adoption of technologies such as eye tracking.

It is the same kind of concern that drives people to tape over the webcam on their computers or to avoid turning on a virtual assistant on a mobile phone.

The best way we know to help people see the great benefits that come with eye tracking while at the same time becoming comfortable with new technology is through proactive transparency — explaining what data is being used and why and by allowing people to opt in/out.

This transparency is particularly important because technologies like eye tracking and attention computing produce sensitive data that can be used for a wide variety of applications.

While it is easy to understand the value of a technology that can help treat a medical condition or improve the performance of a display, these examples also hint at the power of technologies like eye tracking and why it is so important to consider guidelines for developers and hardware manufacturers that will help them earn and deserve the trust of their users.

To Tobii, the best way to earn this trust is via radical transparency.

The concept of data transparency is different from the traditional kinds of user privacy protections granted in frameworks such as GDPR. In fact, while we see the value of privacy protections such as GDPR, it doesn’t address the kinds of information and knowledge that can be gained via technologies such as eye tracking and attention computing.

So, what exactly do we mean by transparency? Well, it is straightforward. Our public data transparency policy states:

Any application that stores or transfers data needs to comply with a short and clear list of rules:

  • Notify the user that data is being stored or transferred and for what purpose that information will be used.
  • Make sure that the user agrees for this to be done.
  • Provide the user with a visual indication for the user when data is being stored or transferred.
  • And explain the explicit benefit the user will receive by having their information stored or transferred in this way (optional).
Transparent leaves

Visit the policy page.

It’s that simple! But, for this to be effective, we think that hardware manufacturers, software developers, along with industry organizations and standards bodies need to work together to agree on and implement a common approach to transparency for all kinds of sensitive biometric signals.

And, we think, it starts with a conversation. That is why Tobii would love to hear from you. What do you think about data transparency standards like the one highlighted above? What is your company or group doing to address these concerns? Are you part of an organization that works on this topic?

The more conversations we have, the more people involved, the better we as an industry can understand these important issues and take the right steps to address them. To join the conversation, you can email us here at transparency@tobii.com.

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