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From social netizens to data citizens: variations of GDPR awareness in 28 European countries

Rughinis, Razvan and Rughinis, Cosima and Vulpe, Simona Nicoleta and Rosner, Daniel (2021): From social netizens to data citizens: variations of GDPR awareness in 28 European countries. Published in: Computer Law & Security Review , Vol. 42, (September 2021): p. 105585.

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Abstract

We studied variability in General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) awareness in relation to digital experience in the 28 European countries of EU27-UK, through secondary analysis of the Eurobarometer 91.2 survey conducted in March 2019 (N = 27,524). Education, occupation, and age were the strongest sociodemographic predictors of GDPR awareness, with little influence of gender, subjective economic well-being, or locality size. Digital experience was significantly and positively correlated with GDPR awareness in a linear model, but this relationship proved to be more complex when we examined it through a typological analysis. Using an exploratory k-means cluster analysis we identified four clusters of digital citizenship, across both dimensions of digital experience and GDPR awareness: the off-line citizens (22%), the social netizens (32%), the web citizens (17%), and the data citizens (29%). The off-line citizens ranked lowest in internet use and GDPR awareness; the web citizens ranked at about average values, while the data citizens ranked highest in both digital experience and GDPR knowledge and use. The fourth identified cluster, the social netizens, had a discordant profile, with remarkably high social network use, below average online shopping experiences, and low GDPR awareness. Digitalization in human capital and general internet use is a strong country-level correlate of the national frequency of the data citizen type. Our results confirm previous studies of the low privacy awareness and skills associated with intense social media consumption, but we found that young generations are evenly divided between the rather carefree social netizens and the strongly invested data citizens. In order to achieve the full potential of the GDPR in changing surveillance practices while fostering consumer trust and responsible use of Big Data, policymakers should more effectively engage the digitally connected yet politically disconnected social netizens, while energizing the data citizens and the web citizens into proactive actions for defending the fundamental rights to private life and data protection.

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