Coventry University launches tracking-free website

Screenshot of Privacy by Default project homepage

Screenshot of Privacy by Default project homepage

Research news

Wednesday 02 September 2020

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A Coventry University-led research project investigating GDPR compliance through cookies in websites and apps has launched an innovative tracking-free website, which has been designed to protect the privacy of all visitors to the project website.

The CSI-COP project, which is funded by EU Horizon 2020, will enlist the participation of citizen scientists to address the growing concerns in society around privacy issues, and the methods that attempt to ensure integrity in the collection and use of data.

It aims to persuade others to adopt a privacy-by-design website philosophy to stop tracking website visitors, and to rethink ‘legitimate business’ purpose and stop passing navigation and other visitor data to third-parties.

The innovative privacy-by-default project website – or eco-system - was designed and built in collaboration with Coventry University’s Research IT Services. Led by Dr. Huma Shah, CSI-COP Project’s Director of Science and member of the Research Centre for Data Science, and Jizheng Wan from Research IT Services, the website’s purpose is to build trust between the CSI-COP researchers and the citizen scientists who will become part of the team investigating digital cookies and the extent of online tracking by default.

Research IT ensured that privacy-by-design was the highest priority that we followed throughout the website’s development lifecycle. Not only did we implement some of the existing solutions to passively block non-essential third-party cookies, but we also proactively used some customised scripts to release those essential cookies that come with certain plugins (e.g. Twitter feed). More importantly, a process has been set up to regularly review and update the customised scripts to ensure the performance aligns with the expectation.

Jizheng Wan, Research IT Services Manager, Coventry University

This means that the CSI-COP eco-system will not track visitors’ navigation, nor pass visitor information to third parties. CSI-COP’s privacy message is boldly displayed on the home page, and the privacy information is transparent and clearly details what underlies the eco-system and why.

CSI-COP will offer accessible opportunities to gain informal education on ‘Human rights in the digital age’, by training citizen scientists on GDPR compliance and how to investigate cookies in websites and apps. This will be delivered through the creation of a massive online open course (MOOC), and through workshops organised by CSI-COP consortium partners.

Coventry University researchers are working with a consortium of 11 partners from Greece, Hungary, The Netherlands, Finland, Israel, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, and Belgium on the CSI-COP project.