New citizen science EU-funded research and innovation project

CSI-COP (Citizen Scientists Investigating Cookies and App GDPR compliance) is a 30-month project which had the kickoff in Coventry today. Project will leverage citizen science in collaboration with a transdisciplinary team to investigate tracking-by-default in website cookies and smartphone apps.

The European Union has reached the role of world leader in privacy protection, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being taken as the basis for local legislation or best practices also elsewhere around the globe. However, quite often the advantages brought by GDPR are undermined due to not careful actions taken by the citizens, which often leave unused the tools provided by GDPR, sometimes due to a smart implementation by the players.

-More generally, despite the research on cybersecurity, the corresponding technical advances might not always be of help, since the human is often the weak link of the chain. More effort is needed in this direction to further increase the efficacy of cybersecurity legislation and technical solutions, says professor Juha Röning from the University of Oulu.

-It is important that citizens get awareness of the risks involved with their online activity and of the tools they possess to protect themselves. CSI-COP offers a great opportunity to have the citizens involved on these critical issues. More, it does so by giving them the opportunity to take an active role as citizen scientists, adds dr. Ulrico Celentano from the University of Oulu.

Citizen scientists are supported by a competent consortium with expertise from science and technology to humanities and law. This will ensure the quality of the lessons learned, consolidated into the project’s knowledge-resource.

A consortium of eleven partners from Greece, Hungary, The Netherlands, Finland, Israel, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Belgium and the UK has secured an EU Horizon 2020 grant under the Science with and for Society (SwafS) programme. Led by Coventry University, project coordinator, a two-day kick-off meeting of the project partners will be hosted in Coventry joined by the project’s Advisory Board of international experts.

-CSI-COP will help to tackle the growing concerns in society around privacy issues and make a major contribution to the methods that attempt to ensure integrity in the use of data, says Principal Investigator on the project, professor Neil Forbes.

-The idea for the project came from researching and teaching artificial intelligence, creativity, and the ethical and social contexts of technologies to undergraduate and post-graduate students at Coventry University, continues Co-Investigator and project Director of Science, dr. Huma Shah.

Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of the project, CSI-COP covers the Oulu University’s focus areas of Digitalization and smart society and Understanding humans in change.

A privacy-by-design, no-tracking project website is currently under development and expected to go live by the end of March 2020. More information on the CSI-COP project can be found here.

Additional information


CSI-COP (Citizen Scientists Investigating Cookies and App GDPR compliance) is a research and innovation consortium with 11 project partners from 10 EU Member States and Associated Countries. The 30-month project started in January 2020 and will leverage citizen science in collaboration with a transdisciplinary team to investigate tracking-by-default in website cookies (small text files) and smartphone apps.

Hidden trackers extract personally identifiable information (such as an IP address, location, name, gender, birthday, credit card details, travel information) from individuals navigating the web and using a variety of smartphone apps (healthcare, transport, games, entertainment). Through informal education, including free-to-attend face-to-face workshops in accessible venues across Europe, and a free online course (MOOC) available worldwide, citizen scientists and members of the general public will find out about the purpose of different cookies, and app trackers. Citizen scientists will learn about, and become privacy champions of, the latest protections and privacy rights accorded under the general data protection regulation (GDPR). Citizen scientists across Europe and beyond will collaborate with AI research scientists, technology and privacy lawyers, gender experts, historians, philosophers, citizen science, digital humanities and open science experts, to build a web-based open-access knowledge-resource detailing the extent of tracking-by-default. This innovation will reveal the types of trackers (third-party, Facebook, etc.) and targeted profiles (children playing digital games; teenagers seeking friends, women’s and men’s health problems) across a range of websites and in smartphone apps.

Last updated: 8.4.2021