Citizen Scientists Investigating Cookies and App GDPR Compliance (CSI-COP)

CSI-COP-Lockup1CSI-COP is investigating GDPR compliance to better understand how far Internet users are being tracked-by-default as they use the Internet visiting websites and apps on their mobile devices. CSI-COP is engaging with citizen scientists to address the growing concerns in society around privacy issues, and the methods that attempt to ensure integrity in the collection and use of data.

Regardless of background, a community of CSI-COP citizen scientists is being recruited from across Europe and beyond. A series of free-to-attend workshops and a MOOC have been developed with training material to informally educate about the GDPR. CSI-COP’s community of citizen scientists are being fully trained to explore cookies and apps for embedded trackers. Supported throughout their research, CSI-COP citizen scientists are expected to investigate cookies on websites they normally visit, and apps on smart devices they use daily. And, finally, they are encouraged to record and report the number and types of trackers they uncover in cookies and apps.

CSI-COP’s well-connected partners comprising six universities, one non-profit, two SMEs and TDL are geared to promote and support the citizen scientists as role models, with the university partners to promote them as pro-privacy champions after the end of the project.

The findings on digital trackers uncovered by the citizen scientists are to be systematically mapped by the project to produce a taxonomy of trackers, which will be used to create an online repository, available as an open-access knowledge resource on trackers embedded in cookies and apps. This knowledge resource will be a tool useful tool to the diverse group of stakeholders.

To get further insights into citizen science, check out interviews with Darlene Chevalier, creator of the SciStarter program and Professor Vian Bakir, CSI-COP Advisory Board member.

Communication, benefits and impacts

It is anticipated that the development of new knowledge and innovations will benefit not only the citizen scientists  – and the societal, democratic and economic costs and benefits of citizen science – but also have an impact on responsible research and innovation, on GDPR compliance and societies understanding and attitudes towards privacy as well as how they continue to use Internet resources, especially among the young and vulnerable.

The results of the project will benefit a wide and varied range of stakeholders.

For policy and strategy impact:

  • data protection policy makers
  • GDPR compliance authorities

To create awareness from a technology perspective:

  • data protection and privacy researchers
  • citizen science researchers
  • technology journalists
  • software developers
  • scientific publications

The societal impact will benefit:

  • parents
  • teachers
  • educators
  • higher education curriculum developers
  • any organisation that provides computers for public use such as libraries.

The principal communication channels are social media and scientific publications. CSI-COP is also undertaking a number of dissemination and communication events during the course of the project in the form of citizen science-stakeholder cafés and parent-teacher round tables in six different geographic locations across Europe as well as the final project conference to which all stakeholders will be invited.


CSI-COP’s is recruiting citizen scientists to investigate GDPR compliance in cookies and apps as part of their daily online routine which requires:

  • Understanding issues in citizen science engagement such as motivation including drop-off in interest if not supported
  • Adopting the best methods for recruitment of an inclusive community of citizen scientists from a broad background comprising both young people and adults
  • Developing effective training materials that are easy to follow in the project training workshops to enable citizen scientists to learn about GDPR, and how to investigate GDPR compliance in cookies and apps
  • Sustaining the citizen scientists’ motivation through the investigation phase ensuring queries on execution are answered promptly by the consortium scientists
  • Receiving sufficient information from citizen scientists on trackers in cookies and apps that can be recorded in databases as they are collected
  • Systematically mapping tracker types producing a taxonomy of digital trackers, from which a repository of trackers is designed as an open-access web-based knowledge resource of trackers in cookies and apps
  • Communicating, disseminating and exploiting the project results including raising awareness of the repository as a tool for data protection policy makers, privacy researchers, technology journalists, citizen science researchers, educators, software developers, members of the general public through the main project event, scientific publications, citizen science-stakeholder cafés, and parent-teacher round tables