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Research Centre of European Private Law

Centro Interdipartimentale di Progettazione e Ricerca di Ateneo 'Scienza Nuova'


Description of the Research Project
Privacy and the Internet of Things: a behavioural and legal approach

Starting date: April 2016
Deadline: in progress

Research Team

- Legal Area: Lucilla Gatt, Ilaria A. Caggiano, Doriana de Crescenzo, Anita Mollo, Maria Cristina Gaeta, Elvira Salemme.
- Human Machine Interaction Area: Roberto Montanari, Federica Protti, Simona Collina.


In 2016, The Living Lab Utopia at the Suor Orsola Benincasa University of Naples (IT, Unisob) started an experiment commissioned by Microsoft Italia to measure users' awareness and understanding of data protection in the digital context, whereby they gave their consent to data processing, at the downloading of Microsoft 10 operating system. This in order to verify whether the current legislation (European and Italian), focused on consensus and applied in this interactive system, is able to assure a certain degree of effective protection for users with regard to the processing of personal data and to identify the protection issues for users regarding their personal data where the processing request takes place in a digital environment.

Research Project Phases

Preliminary Phase: Concept Note

Phase 1: Experimental part

The first phase was based on the examination of the interaction between user and technology, and on the use of a Questionnaire for the collection and processing of digital data.
This phase was carried out in the following steps:
1.1. Development of a Questionnaire divided into three macro-sections: profiling part, a usability part and a legal one.
1.2. Development of an Experimental Protocol realised with the support of high-tech instruments as eye-tracker. In order to verify user's actions regarding privacy setting during the interaction with computer support. the dimensions evaluated are: attention (it can be analysed through graphic representations of heat map); execution time; reading order within the screens (thanks to gaze plot sequences); awareness and knowledge of the subject of data protection; usability.

Phase 2: Examination of the data collected

The second phase aimed at better understanding if the current legislation on consent is successful in its objective of data protection.
This phase was carried out in the following steps:
2.1. Analysis of the data collected utilising the methodology of the behavioural analysis (based on the cognitive psychology) placed in the legal domain, in order to test the efficacy of the law in force.
2.2. Working Papers on the data collected and analysed. The papers were based on the Empirical Legal Study, which starts from a real main issue: "Italian and European legislation, focused on the consent to the processing of personal data is able to assure an effective protection for users with regard to the processing of their personal data, in particular when the processing request takes place in a digital environment?". The result of the papers aims to be a clear answer to this main question.
2.3. Final Work, which is in progress and which will resume all the Research Project phases, critically analysing reached results.

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