Data Donation Symposium

11-12 September 2023 in Zurich

Data donation as an approach to make digital trace data accessible for academic research has become a trending topic over the last years. In the wake of legal advancements such as the introduction of the GDPR in the European Union, direct cooperation with citizens to access data that online services collect about their users has become both more attractive and easier. By now, most major online platforms and services provide their users with options to request and download their personal data in a structured form. Potentially, this makes a wide range of data accessible for researchers, including social media use, search histories, shopping data, health tracking records from wearables, and many more. Hence, this development offers huge opportunities for academic research in different disciplines and the number of initiatives that are enabling and supporting data donations is increasing across Europe (e.g., MiData, Data Donation Lab, OS2DF, DataSkop), and so is the interest in and the number of empirical studies building upon data donations.

Despite its promises, the collection of data donations is also associated with several challenges and uncertainties that can best be solved through interdisciplinary exchange and cooperation. Among others, these encompass (a) the legal and ethical aspects of processing data donations, (b) the technical and organizational implementation of data donation collections, (c) the psychological considerations regarding the motivation and recruitment of potential data donors, and (d) epistemological considerations regarding potential biases specific to data donations or new challenges regarding the analysis of donated data. Every data donation project is faced with these considerations but due to the relative novelty of the approach, there is still a lack of established practices, strategies, or guidelines. Hence, to strengthen and foster the advancement of data donations as an approach to collect digital trace data, this international symposium provided a platform to discuss the topic of data donations from different perspectives and across academic disciplines.

Program & Registration

Download the full program and abstracts here.
An overview of the program can be found below.

Monday, 11 September


Keynote: Beyond data donation – some practical examples
Paul-Olivier Dehaye

The standard data donation model expects individuals to give away rights to their data for research purposes, with the research questions driven top down by academics. In contrast, we (together with PersonalData.IO) have tried to pioneer a bottom up citizen science process. We assisted (under GDPR) Uber drivers in Geneva and France in clawing back data that was previously exclusive to Uber and its select academic partners. With our technical support, we then tried to answer their own questions. Some of their questions concerned exact hours worked, work patterns during COVID, routing algorithm, dispatching algorithm, and pricing algorithm. Answering these questions is actually relatively easy, due to the shared context of a physical city and its roads. We will use this insight to expand our range of considerations to other settings, such as the design of citizen science efforts around the attention economy.

Paul-Olivier Dehaye is a mathematician by training (PhD Stanford, fellowships Oxford and ETH Zurich) who became interested in the role of personal data in society. He has most notably helped uncover the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which has led him to testify at the U.N., Council of Europe, UK Parliament, French Senate and European Parliament. He has led the NGO and sat on the board of MyData Global. He is the CEO of, building solutions to support the emergence of trustworthy data ecosystems.

Session 1: Empirical Studies

  • How Do Audiences Engage with News on Social Media? Employing Data Donations to Advance Multi-Platform Perspectives on News Engagement
    V. Hase, N. Ozornina, M. Lechner, E. Schmidbauer, N. Neuendorf, & M. Haim
  • “I shop therefore I am”: Donating Shopping Data as a Steppingstone to Rethinking (Individual) Consumption
    T. Schneider, G. Danesi, A. Stehrenberger, K. Fuchs, J. Wu, & S. Mayer
  • Digital Meal
    L. Tribelhorn, N. Pfiffner, & T. Friemel
  • A Data Donation Approach for Youth Online Safety
    A. Razi, A. Alsouabi, J. K. Park, X. Caddle, S. Ali, S. Kim, G. Stringhini, M. de Choudhury, & P. J. Wisniewski

Session 2: Legal Aspects

  • Framing the Legal Challenges of Data Donation: From Definitions to Governance Models
    C. Kuanwei
  • Fulfilling their Data Access Obligations. Platforms Need to Increase their Compliance for Data Donation Studies
    V. Hase et al.

Podium Discussion: Data Donation and the Digital Society

On this podium similarities and differences between NGO’s, private companies, and academia when it comes to data donation were discussed. What is the role of the donors (supporters vs. customers vs. citizen scientists)? How to finance infrastructures and projects? What kind of data and data sources will become available in the future? And what challenges do we need to prepare for to make use of these data and data sources for academic research, economic growth, policies, and regulations? Thomas Friemel discussed these questions with Angela Müller (Algorithmwatch Switzerland), Paul-Olivier Dehaye (HestiaLabs, Switzerland/France), and Valerie Hase (LMU Munich) on the podium as well as the audience.

Speakers' Dinner

Tuesday, 12 September

Session 3: Bias in Data Donation Studies

  • Why People (Don't) Donate their Data to Science
    E. Schmidbauer & J. Haßler
  • Willingness and Consent to Donate Digital Trace Data Through Data Donation
    B. Struminskaya, L. Boeschoten, T. Araujo, A. Mendrik, J. Mulder, R. Corten, N. de Schipper, & H. Janssen
  • Differences Between Willingness and Actual Data-Sharing Behavior
    Z. Kmetty, Á. Stefkovics, J. Számely, J. Koltai, & E. Omodei
  • Collect Information about Facebook Usage via Data Donation: Willingness, Participation, and Bias
    F. Keusch, P. Pankowska, R. Bach, & A. Cernat
  • What Can We Ask for and How Should We Ask? An Experimental Vignette Study on Request and Respondent Characteristics Affecting the Acceptability of and Willingness to Agree to Digital Trace Data Donation
    J. Breuer, H. Silber, J. Daikeler, B. Felderer, F. Gerdon, F. Keusch, P. Stammann, & B. Weiß

Session 4: Data Donation Collection Tools

  • Data Donation Module
    N. Pfiffner, P. Witlox, & T. Friemel
  • Digital Data Donation Infrastructure
    L. Boeschoten, N. de Schipper, H. Janssen, B. Struminskaya, E. van der Veen, A. Mendrik, & T. Araujo
  • PRIMA-DONA: Privacy-Preserving Incentivized Minimal Anonymized Donation
    F. Martin, O. Hakobyan, & H. Drimalla
  • Introducing WhatsApp Explorer: A Data Donation Tool to Overcome the Challenges of WhatsApp Data Collection
    K. Garimella & S. Chauchard

Session 5: Methodological Aspects

  • Volatility of Data Download Packages
    T. Carrière, L. Boeschoten, & N. de Schipper
  • Augmenting Data Donations – Integrating TikTok DDPs, Video Metadata, and the Multi-Modal Nature of Audio-Visual Content
    L. Wedel & J. Ohme