Data Donation

What is data donation?

In our everyday lives, we leave more and more digital traces behind. Whether we send a message on WhatsApp, scroll through our Instagram timeline, or do a purchase.

Thanks to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) right to data access and data portability, all data processing entities are required to provide citizens a digital copy of their personal data upon request. This means that as a citizen, you can request a digital copy of all digital traces you left behind, and you typically receive them in the form of .zip files to which we refer as Data Download Packages (DDPs).

Data donation is a method for data collection, where academic researchers partner with individuals interested in donation of the digital traces they left behind for research purposes.

How does data donation work?

Data donation allows researchers to invite participants to share their DDPs. A major challenge is however that DDPs potentially contain very sensitive data, and often not all data is needed to answer the specific research question under investigation. To circumvent these challenges, an alternative framework has been developed: First, the participant requests their personal DDP at the platform of interest. Second, they download it onto their own personal device. Third, by means of local processing, only the features of interest to the researcher are extracted from that DDP. Fourth, the participant inspects the extracted features after which they can choose what they want to donate (or decline to donate). Only after selecting the data for donation and clicking the button *donate*, the donated data is sent to a storage location and can be accessed by the researcher.

Participant flow of a data donation study

Researchers involved

See for more information and the latest news on data donation.