UCL Faculty of Laws


Researching with Data Rights

By Dr Jef Ausloos (Postdoctoral researcher at University of Amsterdam) and Dr Michael Veale (Lecturer in Digital Rights and Regulation at UCL Laws)

Gulf of Mexico

1 April 2021

Publication details

Ausloos, Jef and Veale, Michael (2021)Researching with Data Rights’, Technology and Regulation, pp. 136-157. 10.26116/techreg.2020.010.


Data protection law has a range of rights supporting individuals to access and scrutinise their data. Typically, these have been envisaged as a mechanism to check whether processing of data relating to them is legal, to enable them to use other rights such as rectification or objection, or to help them reuse their data in new contexts. However, significant information asymmetries online has made research into the general practices of large data controllers a hot topic. Do they run systems which, in practice, discriminate against certain parts of the population? Optimise outcomes in ways that are harmful? Breach labour law? These are questions that often do not relate to a single individual, but to groups.

In this paper, Dr Jef Ausloos (University of Amsterdam) and Dr Michael Veale (UCL Laws) examine the potential use of data rights as a research tool. Can people use these rights, potentially in concert, to shine light on shady systems? How can they be integrated into research methodologies, and what might some of the technical and legal hurdles be? This paper presents a critical analysis as well as a practical guide aimed at researchers from a variety of disciplines seeking to integrate such data sources in their own work.

See also: Workers Info Exchange, an NGO seeking to use data rights to create accountability in the gig economy.

You can view the publication at https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10118435/.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash