GDPR: Who cares?

Mathias Blau & Simon Eiberg Jørgensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


As a result of the data capitalism’s entry to everyday life of the Europeans, the European Union has implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with a promise of increased individual control of personal data. However, current studies show that the field of digital data and its need for protection is affected by ambivalence for many people. This thesis investigates how actors in the public debate in Denmark depict the involvement in GDPR different from the citizens and consumers. We take our point of departure in two discourse analyses of 1) the public debate on GDPR in Denmark and 2) three focus groups where we interview young, Danish citizens with different educational backgrounds. The discourse analyses are inspired by the theory of Laclau & Mouffe and result in a comparative analysis of the two spheres where differences and similarities between the identified hegemonic discourses, antagonisms and articulations are analysed. The findings indicate fundamental differences between the public debate and the expressions of citizens and consumers. Whereas the public debate in general assumes that citizens and consumers will employ the empowerment in GDPR and actively apply their new rights to everyday life, the citizens and consumers express a reluctance to become involved in this field. The reluctance stems from a lack of interest in and understanding of data protection which e.g. results in uninformed consents of cookie policies. We find that cookie policies are still perceived to be overwhelming and are therefore ignored - despite a genuine aspiration to engage in data protection. To show the origin of the misconceptions between the two spheres, we relate the discourses to basic differences in the underlying conceptions of human beings. We find that the public debate has the preassumption that rights are embraced by their rational holders whereas our focus group interviews reflect a more behavioural and emotional aspect of human beings. It is of striking relevance that GDPR conforms to the people it seeks to protect. Therefore, the findings of this study have important implications for the wider societal integration of data capitalism. Since GDPR is a new field in academia, this exploratory study contributes with original value to the research field.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages116
SupervisorsHans Krause Hansen