A Human-Centric Perspective on Digital Consenting: The Case of GAFAM


According to different legal frameworks such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), an end-user’s consent constitutes one of the well-known legal bases for personal data processing. However, research has indicated that the majority of end-users have difficulty making sense of what they are consenting to in the digital world. Moreover, it was demonstrated that marginalized people are confronted with even more difficulties dealing with their own digital privacy. In this paper, using an enactivist perspective in cognitive science, we develop a basic human-centric framework regarding digital consent. We argue the action of consenting is a sociocognitive action and includes cognitive, collective, and contextual aspects. Based on this theoretical framework, we present our qualitative evaluation of the practice of gaining consent conducted by the five big tech companies, i.e. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft (GAFAM). The evaluation shows that these companies are lacking in their efforts to empower end-users by considering the human-centric aspects of the action of consenting. We use this approach to argue that the consent gaining mechanisms violate principles of fairness, accountability and transparency and suggest that our approach might even raise doubts regarding the lawfulness of the acquired consent–particularly considering the basic requirements of lawful consent within the legal framework of the GDPR.

Smart Innovation, Systems and Technologies