Designing consent in an app or system doesn’t really work. You can have boxes of text, integrations with consent providers, voice memos to listen to, videos to watch, comics to read and so on. And yet all of them end up in someone checking or clicking a box. Digital capture of consent is a yes/no endeavour.
Consent is a relational, trust, human activity. It requires understanding and the ability/agency to be able to say ‘no’. Digital tools and applications can help us create awareness and even checking for understanding, but that requires time not a compliance mindset. It also requires a belief of equality of partires involved. Not equal in knowledge, but equal in power.
Digital tools can capture and make a record of a decision. But is it. We can design in prompts to engage in a conversation about consent, but not much more.
The human, relational, trust, and power aspects of consent are the hard part. The parts that make consent real. It’s not consent when someone ticks a box because they are starving and need food or have walked a thousand miles in the cold and need a blanket. Ticking a box to survive is not consent, it’s coercion. Ticking a box to access information, to access your bank account, and so on is not consent, it’s payment.
Consent is a critical term in our societies. Let’s stop watering it down so it no longer has meaning.