Department team wins UN PET Lab Hackathon

HCC DPhil student in winning team

by: Konrad Kollnig

28 Nov 2022

This week a Department of Computer Science team took part in the United Nations Privacy Hackathon and placed 1st out of 196 teams (325 participants) worldwide! Our team consisted of Manuj Mishra, Vishal Ramesh, and Konrad Kollnig. Manuj and Vishal are each pursuing the MSc in Advanced Computer Science while Konrad is a 4th year CS DPhil student with a focus on privacy in the HCC theme.

The Cost of the GDPR for Apps? Nearly Impossible to Study without Platform Data

Response: 'GDPR and the Lost Generation of Innovative Apps'

by: Konrad Kollnig
Reuben Binns

13 May 2022

A recently published pre-print titled ‘GDPR and the Lost Generation of Innovative Apps’1 observes that a third of apps on the Google Play Store disappeared from this app store around the introduction of the GDPR in May 2018. The authors deduce ‘that GDPR is the cause’. The effects of the GDPR on the app economy are an important field to study. Unfortunately, the paper currently lacks a control condition and a key variable. As a result, the effects on app exits reported in the paper are likely overestimated, as we will discuss. We believe there are other factors which may better explain these changes in the Play Store aside from the GDPR.

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Winner of FPF Student Paper Award

Study into (Absence of) Consent to App Tracking

by: Konrad Kollnig

07 Jan 2022

We are pleased to announce that our paper ‘A Fait Accompli? An Empirical Study into the Absence of Consent to Third-Party Tracking in Android Apps’ has been awarded with this year’s Student Paper Award of the FPF Privacy Papers for Policymakers.

With this award, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) recognises leading privacy research and analytical work that is relevant to policymakers in the United States Congress, at US federal agencies, and data protection authorities internationally.

We have more exciting privacy research to come in the following weeks. Stay tuned!

On the Planned Reform of UK Data Protection Law

Response from researchers in HCC

Back in September 2021, the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport launched a public consultation on its planned reform of UK data protection law. Researchers within HCC have formulated a response to this consultation.

Our response highlights certain concerns found within the consultation that touch on the core issues of data protection and privacy, responsible research, and balancing support for organisations as well as individuals. The major themes of our response cover the following topics:

  • Data intermediaries and institutions: Lack of clarity regarding data intermediaries, institutions, and practices put in place to safeguard individuals and support technological growth.
  • AI and responsible innovation: The opportunities for AI innovation in the UK depend on a robust regulatory regime that encourages highly context-specific risk management. This will be best promoted through maintaining existing measures like Data Protection Impact Assessments, Data Protection Officers, record keeping, and prior consultation, amongst others.
  • Erosion of trust in online tracking: Excessive box-ticking in the form of consent banners is not a necessary feature of existing data protection and privacy law, but rather a symptom of non-compliance with it.
  • Removal of the balancing test: The removal of the balancing test for pre-approved legitimate interest purposes will create disproportionate risks for UK citizens, and a false sense of certainty for controllers.

In our response, we provide recommendations and suggestions on these themes and statements, intended to help build a sustainable future of AI and data protection within the UK that not only promotes innovation but also advocates for and protects individuals.

CDEI convenes expert group to advise on Online Safety Data Initiative project

Dr Jun Zhao invited in the CDEI expert group on online safety data Initiative project

by: Jun Zhao

19 Jul 2021

Dr Jun Zhao has been one of the invited experts in the CDEI Online Safety Data Initiative project.

The expert group is set up the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) to provide advice and raise constructive challenge at key milestones across the Online Safety Data Initiative project lifecycle. The Online Harms Expert Group works to:

  • Advise on the scope and direction of travel during all phases of the project, sense checking that the solutions proposed address the needs of the safety technology industry and meet the challenges of the online safety agenda.
  • Advise on how data can be shared in a way that is privacy preserving and legally robust, which ensures the trust and confidence of all stakeholders.
  • Ensure that the project team is aware of best practice in handling online harms data and data stewardship more generally.

The Online Harms Expert Group, composed of 10 leading experts, including

  • Ali Shah (Head of Technology Policy at the Information Commissioner’s Office)
  • Dr Asma Vranaki (Policy & Regulation Lead at the National Research Centre on Privacy, Harm Reduction and Adversarial Influence Online, Lecturer of Law at the University of Bristol’s Law School)
  • Azmina Dhrodia (Senior Policy Manager of Gender and Data Rights at Webfoundation)
  • Dr Claudia Peersman (Senior Research Associate at the National Research Centre on Privacy, Harm Reduction and Adversarial Influence Online, Lecturer within the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security at the University of Bristol)
  • Fred Langford (Senior Technology Policy Lead at Ofcom)
  • Jack Hardinges (Programme Lead for Data Institutions at the Open Data Institute)
  • Jon Howard (Executive Product Manager at the BBC)
  • Poppy Wood (Senior Advisor at Reset Tech)
  • Dr Jun Zhao (Senior Researcher at Oxford University’s Department of Computer Science)
  • Andy Burrows (Head of Child Safety Online Policy at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children)

1st HCC Hackathon

A weekend of coding for good

Bored of COVID-19? We were, too. Because of this, a bunch of DPhil students from our research group met online on the weekend of 24/25 April 2021 for the first ever “HCC Hackathon”. We aimed to create a software artifact together, and have fun whilst doing so. We ended up pursuing four, related projects over this weekend.

Oxford University Awarded COVID-19 Rebuilding Research Momentum Fund to HCC Researcher

Dr Jun Zhao was awarded 5K from Oxford University's COVID-19 Rebuilding Research Momentum Fund

by: Jun Zhao

17 Dec 2020

Oxford University launched a COVID-19 Rebuilding Research Momentum Fund to support university academics whose research has been disrupted during the pandemic.

Dr Jun Zhao, who leads the KOALA project, received £5000 from the university to support her research development related to children’s data privacy protection.

Initially funded by an EPSRC IAA grant, the KOALA project investigates the impact of personal data collection practices of mobile apps upon the general well-being of young children aged 6-10, by working closely with children, and their parents and educators. The rebuilding fund will enable Dr Zhao to strengthen the current digital prototype KOALA Hero and prepare future user studies and public engagement activities.

by: Jun Zhao

10 Dec 2020

Several HCC DPhil students have successfully passed their transfer or confirmation with flying colours this Michaelmas term. These are important milestones towards the completion of their DPhils. The students include:

For those of you who are less familiar with DPhil education in Oxford, please refer to further details about these significant milestones on the university web page.

Many congratulations to them all! Look forward to another exciting year ahead!

RTI Student Network

Join our international organisation for graduate students committed to making future technologies more responsible

by: Lize Alberts

09 Dec 2020

The Responsible Technology Institute (RTI) has started a new initiative to connect graduate students from all disciplines and nations interested in topics related to responsible research and innovation. We will also hold monthly reading groups and facilitate work-in-progress seminars for research students.

By joining the RTI Student Network, you will:

  • connect with other students who share your interest in responsible innovation
  • deepen/broaden your knowledge in related topics through discussions and presentations
  • receive supportive feedback from fellow students on on-going research projects
  • have the opportunity to shape an emerging global network

If you would like to become a member, please reach out to Tyler Reinmund ( and Lize Alberts ( and include your name, university, year of study (e.g. Master’s, PhD), and research interest(s).

Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you!

ReEnTrust and APGDA Webinar on Algorithms and Trust

A policy webinar on algorithms and trust

by: Jun Zhao

02 Dec 2020

A webinar was hosted jointly by the ReEnTrust project and APGDA on 2 December, 2020, to discuss algorithms and trust.

The event was chaired by APGDA Chair, Daniel Zeicher MP, and included contributions from a number of senior researchers from the ReEnTrust/HCC following the publication of their recent policy paper.

The one-hour event was well-attended by MPs and academics. The impact of trust on the development of future regulatory framework was particularly discussed after the presentation by the HCC researchers. The public attitudes towards the government use of data was considerably less pronounced than perceptions pertaining to private sector data. In particular, participants mentioned the importance of the NHS in terms of conveying trust to the general public around AI and medical data, in addition to the challenges associated with this if this group of professionals also don’t understand the principles themselves.

HCC researchers, Dr Jun Zhao and Dr Philip Inglesant, will follow the briefing event with a fuller policy report launch early next year, and further virtual roundtable events jointly with the APGDA. Please look out this space!