Unlocking personal data from online services: user studies on data export experiences and data transfer scenarios

Emmanuel Syrmoudis, Robert Luzsa, Yvonne Ehrlich, Dennis Agidigbi, Kai Kirsch, Danny Rudolf, Daniel Schlaeger, Joelle Weber, Jens Grossklags

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, online services have started to make personal data of users more accessible by offering dedicated ways of exporting data. The introduction of download portals is associated with increasing demands by privacy regulations regarding the rights of users, such as the Right of Access (Art. 15) and the Right to Data Portability (Art. 20) of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These rights aim to empower users by increasing their control over the personal data that online services hold about them. They allow users to export their personal data and thereby gain insights on the scope of personal data held by the services and to transfer this data to other services. However, until now, little is known about how users experience and evaluate the process of accessing and exporting their data and how it impacts individual-level factors such as privacy-related attitudes (i.e. attitudes regarding sharing personal data, perceived control over data, and using privacy-protective strategies). In this paper, we report the results of an online survey with an experimental condition (N = 728) and a second online survey (N = 817) where participants from two university courses were asked to request real data exports from online services and inspect the exported data afterward. We find that inspecting exported personal data has a statistically significant positive effect on users’ privacy-related attitudes. However, users perceive limited usefulness in switching scenarios where personal data is transferred to a new substitutional service and rather prefer to use the data at multiple complementary services.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman-Computer Interaction
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • data export
  • data import
  • data portability
  • data transfer
  • user survey


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