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State-of-the-art & expected results
Thesis: Legal issues of user tracking technologies used by Austrian enterprises (01.12.2020)
Förderjahr 2020 / Stipendien Call #15 / ProjektID: 5035 / Projekt: Legal issues of user tracking technologies

Current state-of-the-art

There exist overviews on the state-of-the-art of some specific subdomains of user tracking, like the work of Vallina-Rodriguez et al. on mobile user tracking [VSR+16] or the work of Ermakova et al. on web tracking [EFBK18]. In 2018 McKay et al. created a report on the "State of the Art in Data Tracking Technology" [MCD+19] with the support of the Consumer Policy Research Centre, which is "an independent, non-profit, consumer think-tank established by the Victorian Government in 2016 and launched in 2017" (, visited 2019-12-23). Most of this overviews are literature reviews of scientific papers, the latter also took reports by industry and NGOs into account [MCD+19], p. 1. In her 2014 paper Peacock researched the impact of Big Data on user tracking and why the online information industry failed to self-regulate itself [Pea14].

This failure of self-regulation leads us to the second part of related work for the proposed thesis: Publications on legal aspects of user tracking. There is currently no related work on user tracking and the regarding legal situation in Austria, although there are publications focusing on law and user tracking. One of these publications is the book "Networks of Control" published by Christl and Spiekermann in 2016. Their legal recommendations are made based on EU laws [CS16], p. 140–144.Another one would be the paper by Sanchez-Rola et al., which focuses on web tracking and its countermeasures. The paper was also published in 2016 and takes EU and US regulations into account [SRUPSB16], p. 7. Although the EU General Data Protection Regulation (, visited 2019-12-23) has already been released in April 2016 in its final form, Sanchez-Rola et al. only focused on the EU E-Privacy directive (, visited 2019-12-23) instead.

Expected results

The expected results are an overview (including a short history) of (state-of-the-art) user tracking (technologies) as well as a bigger picture of the application of user tracking by Austrian enterprises and the regarding legal implications. Based on the outcome of the literature review a survey will be created to prove or reject the first hypothesis, which is that Austrian enterprises are not at the very forefront when it comes to user tracking technologies and therefore are more likely to use technologies which are already regulated by law. The quantitative interviews have to be done with a wide variety as well as with a large number of Austrian enterprises to provide scientifically acceptable results. The second hypothesis focuses on the legal aspects of this work: Most Austrian enterprises are aware of the current legal situation, but somewhat ignorant of future changes. Qualitative interviews will be done in an attempt to prove or reject this. Data gathered by the quantitative interviews will be helpful to find the right interview partners for the qualitative interviews. Enterprises will be able to use the results of the proposed work to evaluate their own user tracking strategies in regard to the current (and some aspects of the future) legal situation.


[VSR+16] Narseo Vallina-Rodriguez, Srikanth Sundaresan, Abbas Razaghpanah, Rishab Nithyanand, Mark Allman, Christian Kreibich, and Phillipa Gill. Tracking the trackers: Towards understanding the mobile advertising and tracking ecosystem. CoRR, abs/1609.07190, 2016.

[EFBK18] Tatiana Ermakova, Benjamin Fabian, Benedict Bender, and Kerstin Klimek. Web tracking-a literature review on the state of research. 2018.

[MCD+19] Dana McKay, Shanton Chang Chua, Suelette Dreyfus, Monica Whitty, Jeannie Marie Paterson, Pan Zhan, Garreth Hanley, and Andrew Clausen. State of the art in data tracking technology. 2019.

[Pea14] Sylvia E Peacock. How web tracking changes user agency in the age of big data: The used user. Big Data & Society, 1(2):2053951714564228, 2014

[CS16] Wolfie Christl and Sarah Spiekermann. Networks of control. Facultas Verlags- und Buchhandels AG, 2016.

[SRUPSB16] Iskander Sanchez-Rola, Xabier Ugarte-Pedrero, Igor Santos, and Pablo G. Bringas. The web is watching you: A comprehensive review of web-tracking techniques and countermeasures. Logic Journal of the IGPL, 25(1):18–29, 08 2016.

Tanja Travnicek

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I am a Master student of Business Informatics at TU Wien, where I also finished my Bachelor in "Medieninformatik und Visual Computing". Throughout my studies, I specialised in certain areas of organisation, law and security.
Additionally, I am employed as IT consultant and responsible for one of Austria's major learning managment systems.
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