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Cultural, regulatory and behavioural economic perspectives on data disclosure decisions

The workshop "Vectors of Data Disclosure" focused on delving deeper into cultural, regulatory, and behavioral economic perspectives on data protection and personal data disclosure. Researchers from several departments at the Universities of Passau, Vienna, Trier, Hohenheim, and the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods participated in the discussion to examine the current status and further development of their studies. The group also discussed data protection legal systems and cultural attitudes towards data disclosure and corresponding heuristics, with a particular emphasis on Brazil, China, Switzerland, and the USA, in addition to the GDPR and Germany.

With his lecture “GDPR 2.0”, Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Forgó, data protection lawyer and professor of technology and intellectual property law at the University of Vienna, opened the event with a presentation on the development of European data protection since the 1970s. He formulated the thesis that digital law can be seen as an erosion of classical legal competencies and that this is not yet adequately represented in the disciplinary field. Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Forgó reported on the reception of the GDPR in other countries since its creation and critically assessed the regulation against the background of the current corona pandemic. Here he pointed out regulatory deficits. An outlook for the future would lie in re-evaluating the given infrastructure, a more realistic evaluation of the IT-related options for action, and projects that examine data protection from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Afterwards, Prof. Dr. Moritz Hennemann and Prof. Dr. Kai von Lewinski, representing the legal sub-project, explained the differences in data protection law between Brazil, China, the European Union, Switzerland and the USA. There is tension between the laws (law in the books) and their concrete implementation (law in action), which is current in Brazil. Differences between the GDPR and data protection law in Switzerland would become apparent, for example, in the fact that the European Union relies on a prohibition with a reservation of permission in data protection law. In contrast, Switzerland is conceptually based on authorisation with a reservation of prohibition.

For the cultural studies section, Prof. Dr. Daniela Wawra and Lena Kessel presented the basic concept for the first project phase. Then, an overview was given of the parameters identified so far that can influence data disclosure decisions from a cultural perspective. These included, for example, the fundamental value placed on informational privacy, privacy concerns, the assessment of risks in disclosing personal data on the one hand and the benefits on the other, the attitude towards or trust in data recipients, communication on the use of data and awareness of and knowledge about data protection as well as the assessment of one’s application competence in this regard. Here, a more detailed cross-cultural analysis is worthwhile to work out cultural specifics and cross-cultural tendencies that can influence decision-making heuristics. For example, initial analysis results were presented on awareness and knowledge of data protection and corresponding regulations. In addition, assessing one’s practical skills to protect personal data online was surveyed and presented in a differentiated manner for the USA and in cultural comparison with other countries under investigation. In the ensuing discussion, this was discussed in greater depth. The cognitive accessibility of current data protection regulations was also addressed, as data disclosers usually have to process a high degree of complexity to understand them.

Finally, Martin Richthammer, representing the business informatics sub-project, presented the results of a structured literature review on the influences of regulation and culture on individual data disclosure decisions. Finally, Prof. Dr. Thomas Widjaja added primary considerations on the conception of the research design for this sub-project.

The discussion among the participants illustrated that the data disclosure decision is a highly complex interaction with numerous factors. Therefore, the project’s interdisciplinary approach will help to understand the process of data disclosure decisions further.

Across disciplines, the research group reached its first milestone primarily in the interdisciplinary discussion of the basic concept of its project, its analytical steps to date and its initial research findings. In further workshops, the researchers will now dive into the detailed planning of the empirical project phase.

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