We are doing science for policy
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
Understanding how people interact with digital technology is relevant to EU policy for a number of reasons. For one, the digital consumer and citizen needs to be protected, from malicious advertising, on-line tracking, companies tricking them into revealing more about their personal information than they would like, etc. Secondly, insights about online behaviour lead to better provision of digital public services (e.g. eHealth, eLearning and eGovernment). And finally, digital products can be used in novel ways to promote behaviour which is in the public interest, such as healthier lifestyles or more environmentally-friendly habits.
Maintaining cybersecurity is an important policy issue. Unless on-line interactions are safe (and perceived to be so) Europe will not reap the full benefits of the Digital Single Market. A significant and growing part of this problem is the insecure behaviours of Internet users. To address this, the IS Unit is conducting a series of experiments in 2015 testing how on-line nudges can lead to changes in cybersecurity behaviour. The outcome will be a set of guidelines for service providers on safer interface design. This activity is being conducted with JRC-IPTS institutional funding.
Studies have shown that although people say they are concerned about their privacy, they do not behave accordingly (this is called the privacy paradox). Privacy notices do not help much – they are seldom read and seldom understood. This project explored the degree to which nudges, which are changes in the environment in which a decision is taken, can change behaviour in the area of digital privacy. Results show that the presence of an anthropomorphic character leads to greater disclosure of personal information. Differences across countries, age groups and levels of education are also reported.
The JRC conducted a project on the provision of consumer information in the digital online market in collaboration with the Directorate General for Justice. The results of this activity fed into the guidelines that the Directorate General for Justice published to clarify the provisions related to digital goods in the Consumer Rights Directive. JRC conducted interviews with managers of the most important companies in the market and ran a laboratory behavioural experiment with a representative sample of 600 consumers to test possible solutions.