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CSI-COP Summer 2023 at Czech Technical University (CTU) in Prague

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On 25th of July, Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU) partner carried out a CSI-COP workshop with a group of 35 international students from French universities, who are ensuring their laboratory placement at CTU thanks to support of Erasmus program. They study biomedical engineering, but CTU team decided to attract their attention to importance of on-line privacy and GDPR as a concern both for their professional setting and for us as individuals as well as for overall our society. We have invited them to their own CSI-COP Workshop.  A week in advance we have asked the students to consider following question and send us a brief description of their experience:

Did you ever notice that

  • your internet browser is serving you upon opening different news or messages than your friend (and that you can’t resist reading your content),
  • or that you are offered different ticket price than your friend all over you are planning to fly together using the same airline?

Can you remember that something like that happened to you?

We were lucky because the suggested task caught students´ attention. Below are anonymised observations from the participants who accepted our invitation to the workshop.

Observation 1: I like to shop a lot (clothing, make-up, jewelry shops etc.). And I observed that whenever I shop online or even check the store’s shop online I get more advertising and recommendations from similar shops. This is the same on Instagram or even Facebook, when I like or share something with my friends, immediately my flux is full of things related to it, which of course I like, and they make me want to shop or to share them with my friends even more.

Observation 2: I think Instagram gives me adds based on what I like, what kind of accounts I follow, and also based on what I talk about with my friends. Once I was talking with my friend about a pair of sneakers I really want and the next time I went on Instagram I received ads about the said sneakers, which is a little bit disturbing knowing that I disabled my phone assistant.

Observation 3: In terms of different prices, I noticed a difference when it comes to ordering an Uber or a Bolt. If I am with more people and we want to take a Bolt home, each of us checks the prices on their personal phone before ordering one. Some may have discounts, but the ones that don’t have discounts are offered very different prices. I’m guessing it depends on how much we use the apps or how long the rides usually are.

After a presentation of CSI-COP project, and its MOOC translated to French Votre droit à la confidentialité en ligne, we have acquainted the students with some tools that can help them in maintaining their privacy on their proper devices connected to the internet. Significant part of the workshop was dedicated to discussion about some surprising real events (including those mentioned explicitly in their observations) and their explanations, Fig. 1.

Fig. 1 A slide from the presented lecture referring to risks of on-line tracking

Finally, we have presented a brief review of results achieved by the CSI-COP project and the participants were invited to learn more about them from the project webpages. We have pointed to the attendees an opportunity to earn the CSI-COP Certificate if they succeed in the MOOC Test. Nine from all 35 attendees submitted their answers and 7 of them gained the CSI-COP Certificate.

What a rewarding feeling we had the next day when reading a nice e-mail from one of the participants:

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to participate at the presentation held at the CIIRC building about CSI-COP project and I would like to kindly request you to send me the slides, so I can share them with family and thus bring awareness to my dear ones.

I found your work very insightful and important for any internet user and I send you my genuine gratitude for everything you’ve done. I’ll make sure to follow your work accross all the platforms I was provided with!

Prague, 21st August 2023

Professor Olga Stepankova and Deniz Ozdemir, on behalf of  the Czech CSI-COP team

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