WP 3 – Citizens' perception of privacy


  1. To characterise and assess citizen concerns with new technologies such as RFID and surveillance.
  2. To determine whether European citizens have sufficient knowledge of what information is stored for which purpose and for what period of time.
  3. Evaluate existing surveys and analyses through a systematic review and meta-analysis of their results in order to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of citizens’ current knowledge about privacy.
  4. To assess how easy or difficult it is for European citizens to have access to information that is stored about them and to correct such information. [
  5. To collect and assess the views of a representative sample of data controllers with regard to privacy and data protection and, in particular, whether they view transparency for individuals seeking knowledge of their data as being in data controllers’ own interest [also interviews with DPAs and NGOs]
  6. Invite and gather comments from the external experts and other stakeholders on the deliverables from Task 1 and Task 2.
  7. Convene a workshop of the panel of external experts to discuss the findings of the aforementioned deliverables and, in particular, their views on whether any remedial actions and/or recommendations are warranted to the data controllers, the Commission and data protection authorities.

Task 3.1: Citizen concerns and knowledge re data use

First, we will assess citizens’ concerns and apprehensions about new technologies and their applications (the subject of the cases studies in WP 2), especially those that enable the collection and processing of their personal data such as RFID, surveillance technologies, DNA collection, smart cameras, data mining, etc.
Second, we will assess their knowledge of what information is stored for which purpose and for what period of time.

To do this, we will review and distill surveys, studies and analyses of such citizen concerns and knowledge. We are aware that data on the citizens' knowledge, concerns, apprehensions and attitude towards a value such as privacy is scarce. It has been explored from time to time in research projects or polling institutions. Eurostat did surveys on citizens' (and other stakeholders') attitudes towards data protection only sporadically. Recent studies have called for a continuous monitoring of these attitudes.

Gathering and analysing such data will help policy-makers (and industry for that matter) to better understand public opinion about new technologies. It will help them to decide whether some remedial measures need to be taken to alleviate or at least address such concerns and to raise their level of knowledge about the new technologies. Such data are expected to help in the policy-making process and, especially, in undertaking privacy and ethical impact assessments, the subject of WP 4.

Task 3.2: Citizen access to information

This task addresses the question of the extent to which European citizens have access to the personal information that is collected, stored and processed, if they are able to correct information and if they can find out how their information is being used. We will do this in three lines of empirical research, as follows:

  1. We will examine the websites of some (say 20) of the largest data controllers (from both the public and private sectors) and assess the extent to which they make known what information they store, for what purpose, for how long and whether those data are shared with others (and, if so, who), and how easy or difficult it is for citizens to view the personal data held on them and how easy or difficult it is for them to correct such data. We also contact other data controllers (e.g., of DNA databases, biobanks, passenger name records, etc) to inquire about their privacy guidelines and the accessibility of personal data. We could analyse these guidelines.
  2. We will then interview the database controllers about their approach to privacy and what drives it (if they just fulfil minimum requirements set from the outside; if they see privacy as a business enabler, if they examine user wishes, etc. (all)
  3. We will complement this work by contacts with DPAs in order to determine the number of complaints they receive regarding difficulty of access to information and the metrics they use on the numbers of citizens who have tried to get access and been refused or who have experienced long delays or have had to call upon assistance from the DPAs. We will also interview selected other stakeholders too such as civil rights organisations, consumer protection groups, and advocacy groups.

The partners will then prepare a report on their findings, which will be distributed to the panel of experts for their comment and possibly selected other stakeholders, e.g., members of the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party and the European Data Protection Supervisor as well as the Commission official responsible for our project.

Task 3.3 – Third workshop

The partners will convene a third expert workshop to discuss the findings of the deliverables from the previous two work packages and, in particular, their views on whether any remedial actions and/or recommendations are warranted to the data controllers, the Commission and data protection authorities as a result of the findings.

The partners will use the opportunity of this workshop to make a preliminary presentation of the work they expect to undertake in the context of WP4 (privacy and ethical impact assessments) and to elicit views from the external experts on the elements of a privacy and ethical impact assessment framework.

The workshop and its outcome will conclude the third stage of the PRESCIENT project.


Conference Book of abstracts available
BECOME INVOLVED: The program of the PRESCIENT conference is now available!
SAVE THE DATE: The PRESCIENT project will hold an international conference on "Privacy and Emerging Sciences and Technologies" on 27 & 28 November 2012 at Fraunhofer Forum in Berlin
30-11-2011: Book Launch: Towards Responsible Research and Innovation in the ICT and Security Technologies Fields.
Download Report
01-06-2011: Workshop on "Privacy issues arising from next generation whole genome sequencing" (01 June 2011) in Brussels
In co-operation with the STOA Project "Making Perfect Life"