Förderjahr 2020 / Stipendien Call #15 / ProjektID: 5035 / Projekt: Legal issues of user tracking technologies used by Austrian enterprises
Being a computer scientist and having attended a few lectures on project management (agile or not), I knew I had to plan my Master thesis with a little wiggle room timewise. And still, I found myself asking for a little more time a few weeks ago. Not because my maths was off, but because in order to create a meaningful survey I needed to write a completely new chapter. One that was not on my initial list of things to do. It's about (commercially available) user tracking tools.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, I focused my first chapter on user tracking methods. So not tools, but the methods behind them. I really dug deep and uncovered so many methods unknown to me, that I got more and more worried. If I did not know about them, how could I assume that the people I would survey in my next step will know about them. I considered creating a survey for experts only (like data protection officers), but at some point I had to admit that even them might not be able to answer my questions sufficiently. So I decided, the only way I can create an "answerable" survey is by taking the time to look up (commercially available) user tracking tools and, in a next step, match them to the methods I already described in my first chapter. This was much harder than initially thought and I was only able do it to the best of my resources. So many of those tools try really hard to hide any information on their inner workings.
However, now I am able to ask questions like "Do you use any of the following tools?" followed by a list of user tracking tools, instead of asking "Does your company use browser fingerprinting to track users?". I will still give the respondents an option to provide information on additional tools, which I might have missed. But overall, the questions will be much more precise, faster to answer and will not require a degree in computer science or an advanced interest in user tracking. Hopefully, this will have a positive impact on the number of respondents.
It feels a bit repetitive to end this blog post stating the same question I already ended my last blog post with. Nevertheless, it is still the question I will try to answer next, I just had to finish a little side-quest first. Now that I am "back on track", my next chapter will focus on the following question: Which (state-of-the-art) user tracking technologies are currently used by Austrian enterprises for business purposes?
My next blog post will finally include stats and graphics, because I know how terrible boring text-only blog posts can be.
Additionally, I am employed as IT consultant and responsible for one of Austria's major learning managment systems.