User Perceptions of Contextual Consent Controls


Supervision: Christine Utz

Start date: as soon as possible

Duration: 3 or 6 months

More details:


The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) constitutes consent as one of six legal bases to collect and process the personal data of EU citizens. As of mid-2018, more than 60,% of popular websites in Europe were found to display consent notices, small pop-up boxes on websites that inform visitors about the website's data collection practices and asks them for their consent. Research has shown that users are annoyed by consent notices, erroneously believe they have to agree to access the website, and find it easier to correctly assess the consequences of privacy decisions if they are presented in the context of the actual data processing.

Recently, websites such as Tagesschau [1] or Spiegel Online [2] have started to use contextual consent controls that allow users to individually activate third-party services embedded in the website and thus trigger a data collection process. This raises the question how these controls perform in comparison to consent notices, which are displayed when a user first visits a website, i.e., out of context with the actual data processing.

The goal of this thesis is to evaluate how user perceive and interact with contextual consent controls if these are used to (de)activate all third-party data collection on a website. Which types of services are activated? Do visitors consider the context-based controls to be more transparent than consent notices? How many controls are they willing to interact with on a given website?

Your tasks:

  • Build a website that uses multiple third-party services. Visitors should be able to toggle all third-party data sharing with contextual consent controls.
  • Design and conduct a user study (could be online or in-lab) that explores users' perceptions of these conceptual consent controls.

This project can be conducted both as a Bachelor's and a Master's thesis.

[1] [2]


This project would be a good match if you are interested in - and ideally have some knowledge of:

  • Online privacy and Web tracking
  • Web development (HTML, PHP, JavaScript, ...)
  • Usable security and privacy