This work is part of a large-scale EU-funded research project aimed at identifying innovative uses and distribution of content through IP-enabled devices. The project's research span across AR gaming, connected TVs, streaming to cinemas, user-generated content and education & culture.

What we've done

We carried out two studies to explore viewers' attitude towards privacy and data control/management with particular focus on TV viewing- live and on-demand. The outputs are in the form of low-fi & fully functional prototypes to gather explicit and implicit data, evaluation reports that contributed to formal EU deliverables and blog posts.

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Why it matters

With the increase of professional content streamed over IP and consumed on a variety of devices, broadcasters and other media services providers will be capturing increasing amounts of data about the content users are consuming. As IP-enabled TVs will gradually be present in every household, users will be able to access a wider range of services that gathers usage data. This means the same concerns over privacy, current on the web, will begin to emerge on TV.

As public broadcasters it is important we inform viewers on changes in the ways TV consumed and be transparent about it in order to keep high audience's trust in the service.

It allowed to address the recent EU Data Protection Regulation while it was still in the making and investigating how we would allow users to manage, delete, export their personal data from BBC services, and looking into W3C tracking compliance proposal which defines a do not track user preference option.

Our goals

One of our organisation's objectives is to offer every individual open and easy access to, and full control of, their personal data held by the BBC. This project aimed at informing questions around transparency by looking at :

  • understanding users' awareness and attitude towards tracking activity on TV
  • explore the level of trust users have on public broadcasters holding their data
  • identifying and evaluate with users best formats to present back users' data on TV/other BBC products
  • understanding what level of control , if any, users want to have over their personal data

How it works

We first conducted a diary study over a period of two weeks where participants had to record online their TV viewing - explicit data.

Subsequently we presented back their activity data in a lab session alongside lo-fi prototypes we created showing some benefits of data gathering (progress in a programme and recommendations) in the context of a BBC product.

Our next study focused on users' behaviour and implicit data gathering by providing users with the ability to view and control their attention data. How would they behave? Would they use the features? Would they consider it a valuable addition? Those are some of the questions we were seeking answers to.

The study was carried out remotely for a period of 30 days and participants had to install a Chrome extension we developed that would allowed us tracking of users' interaction on the iPlayer. The analytics recorded by the system helped us evaluate what features users used the most, in what context ,which ones weren't used and the time when such features were used. Users' feedback to the automatic collection of their data, and the features provided were gathered via an online questionnaire. For analysis, the results for the questionnaire were compared with Chrome extension activity and usage data.


From our studies it emerged our participants were mostly comfortable about their TV data being collected as long as they trust what the service provider will do with it and have a degree of control over it by offering the option of limiting that use or stop it if they wish to. Make options available even if users won't use them much.

In terms of knowledge transfer, this project has:

  • informed interested stakeholders on what level of control over their data end users are likely to use based on analytics
  • the Chrome extension we developed and tested with end users proved to be an interesting approach to rapid prototyping of new features on existing BBC products without embed them in their architecture - avoiding impact on functionality complementary and relevant to other EU partners' use cases
  • impact on other EU public broadcasters: Berlin based RBB has used our study results to raise awareness within the organisation on the importance of addressing this issue in order to retain viewers' trust in the service


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