Exemplary student response to a course assignment

The course “Challenges and Opportunities of Datafication: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” is designed in a way that you can customize the content to your needs. Whether you want to use all the material or just individual classes, you always find a whole set of lectures, assignments and readings that fit eight specific themes. In order to give you a sense of how students interact with the material, we present to you here the response of one of our students, Sinziana Thurm, who takes part in our global classroom project. Sinziana is in her 3rd semester of the Sustainability Science (Nachhaltigkeitswissenschaften) Master’s programme at Leuphana University Lüneburg. She chose to take part in this course as a result of the positive experiences obtained during the last semester in the module „Digital Media and Sustainability“, where she touched upon sustainability in the ICT sector, sustainable and energy-efficient software and data centres. For her, “digitalization is an important megatrend inside the ICT sector, which is why I wish to link it to the interdisciplinary perspectives that I am obtaining in my Master’s since I believe that not only technologies (hardware) but digitalization itself should be shaped in a sustainable and ethical way in the future.”

Sinziana submitted the following, excellent response to the assignment linking to Mikkel Flyverbom’s lecture on transparency and the digital prism: Reflect on the notion of transparency and visibility relating to your own usage of digital technologies. In which ways do you feel visible? Does this concern you? Why, why not? Note down your reflections in about 500 words.

Sinziana writes ((For the purpose of this weblog, we slightly shortened her response):

Personal data privacy rights as an intrinsic human right have started to become acknowledged only recently (United Nations, 2020). While privacy is recognized as a universal human right (§12, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948), data privacy is not recognized as a human right from a legislative point of view yet (Lathrop-Melting, 2020). Institutions and bodies have the “power” (or better said in Foucault’s words “metapower”, which is everywhere, see Foucault, 1998) of taking legislative decisions affecting the lives of millions of people. Hereby, power pervades the digitalized world since it is constituted through knowledge, a component that any type of company collecting data possesses for example.

Nevertheless, such decisions must be taken openly and be transparent since it is one’s data that is being collected, used, and processed in many ways. Hereby, “transparency is a core principle of data protection” (European Data Protection Supervisor, 2020). At the same time, Article 14 of the 45/2001 Regulation (EC 45/2001) (EC, 2001) requests the presence of transparent information and communication together fairness concerning the usage of data. The regulation is based on the following principle: “fair and transparent processing require that the data subject be informed of the existence of the processing operation and its purposes”, while Article 15 suggests that the regulating institutions managing our data are open and transparent (ibid.).

Thus, we have the right to know about the stakeholders involved in the collection of the data and the true motives of the data collection. Although measures have been taken in this direction, the effects of the taken measures were rather unsatisfactory since only internal instead of external measurements transparency were developed (Albu & Flyverbom, 2016). While relating the notion of transparency to the own use of digital technologies, I am somewhat concerned (approximately on a 6 on a 1 to 10 scale) yet since I do not feel like the information that stakeholders, companies, or the government are profiling/collecting about my persona/profile is necessarily be helpful for “dark” purposes rather economic gains from advertisements or more. Nevertheless, I am rather concerned about other purposes for which such information could be used. At the same time, I am not a big fan of social media nor do I use anything, except for LinkedIn. For example, users trust fewer social media platforms with their data than others such as doctors (Morey & Schoop, 2015). Nevertheless, I feel like due to the fact of being aware of the data privacy issues, I am more detached from social and digital media/technologies and I try to always decrease my usage and time spent on any apps, although this is not the solution since not everybody is aware of this issue and many users continue using digital technologies without taking into consideration the risks that it imposes.

An ideal solution for improving the transparency of digital technologies would be for example integrating as transparency is a novel non-functional requirement for software systems (Spagnuelo et al., 2016) or the usage of blockchain technologies, which are an open-source and decentralized database for tracking transaction information (Francisco & Swanson, 2018). Furthermore, companies need to promote a fair trade of their data which could benefit more the customers than the companies (Morey & Schoop, 2015).

Nevertheless, there is much legislative progress being achieved being made in this direction; especially with the accountability principle and new transparency requirements under the general data protection regulation (GDPR), which has released its guidelines on transparency, where the data controllers must be able to prove that the processed data is being processed transparently concerning the data subject (Regulation, 2016). Finally, I believe that users should inform themselves better about the current situation regarding data privacy before choosing which information to share, especially on social media platforms, and be overall more aware.


A., Lathrop-Melting (2019a, Oktober 11). HUMAN RIGHTS HORIZONS: Are data rights human rights? Center On Human Rights Education. https://www.centeronhumanrightseducation.org/data-rights/

Assembly, U. G. (1948). Universal declaration of human rights. UN General Assembly, 302(2).

European Data Protection Supervisor. (2020). European Data Protection Supervisor – European Data Protection Supervisor. https://edps.europa.eu

Foucault, Michel (1998). The History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge, London, Penguin.

Francisco, K., & Swanson, D. (2018). The supply chain has no clothes: Technology adoption of blockchain for supply chain transparency. Logistics, 2(1), 2.

Morey, T., Forbath, T., & Schoop, A. (2015). Customer data: Designing for transparency and trust. Harvard Business Review, 93(5), 96-105.

United Nations. (2020). Government Policy for the Internet Must Be Rights-Based and User-Centred. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/government-policy-internet-must-be-rights-based-and-user-centred

Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2000 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Community institutions and bodies and on the free movement of such data

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