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The Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the UvA and the Internet Policy Research Initiative (IPRI) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are receiving a subsidy for joint research on privacy and smartphones. The subsidy has been allocated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) under the ‘Privacy Research in Cyber Environment’ (PRICE) programme.

Keyboard 'privacy'
Photo: Sebastien Wiertz (Flickr CC)

Smartphone users make extensive use of apps, which in turn make extensive use of personal data. The underlying ecosystem, Apple iOS or Android, plays an important role when it comes to offering transparency about what happens to users' data. In their project, entitled Transparency Bridges: Exploring Transparency Requirements in Smartphone Ecosystems, the UvA and MIT researchers will be establishing in a technical sense how transparency is influenced by the ecosystem as well as the role the different legal frameworks in the US and EU have to play in this respect.

Expectations, preferences and behaviour

The project is taking a multidisciplinary approach. It combines law and human computer interaction to study how the different legal and cultural circumstances in the US and Europe influence people's expectations, preferences and behaviour regarding privacy. Drawing on their expertise in the field of user studies, online services, platforms and privacy regulation, the researchers will contribute to our understanding of the influence and regulation of digital platforms, operating in different jurisdictions.

Basis for recommendations

Among its aims, the research intends to clarify the influence of the providers of smartphone ecosystems on the protection of privacy. The findings will form the basis of recommendations to legislators, supervisory bodies and trade and industry - with respect to the interpretation and implementation of existing law, as well as the need for changes.

In total NSF and NWO are awarding subsidies to five projects; an amount of some 500,000 euros per project. The collaboration between research groups at MIT and the UvA has arisen from their partnership in the EU-US Privacy Bridges project. For the UvA, the research leaders are Prof. Nico van Eijk and Dr Joris van Hoboken.