Wolfie Christl

Internet, Technology & Society

Digital Culture, Public-Interest Technology
Consumer Surveillance, Digital Tracking
Personal Data Economy, Platform Power
Algorithmic Decisions, Datafication of Work

Wolfie Christl is a public-interest technologist, researcher, writer, policy analyst, educator, and digital rights activist based in Vienna, Austria. Communication engineer by profession, he studied (but did not complete degrees in) computer science, sociology and media studies. He has been interested in the societal impact of information technology since the late 1990's. Until 2006, he was part of Public Netbase, a digital art platform, non-profit ISP and early hackerspace in Vienna. His recent work focuses on consumer surveillance, the economy of personal data, algorithmic decision-making, the power of tech platforms and the datafication of work.

He has published several comprehensive reports on today's personal data industry and contributed to investigations by civil society organizations, consumer protection associations, trade unions, media organizations, law firms and EU data protection authorities. His research has contributed to the filing of legal complaints against consumer data brokers and led to fines against unlawful data practices. It has been taken up by policymakers across the world, was quoted in reports to the European Commission and the US Federal Trade Commission, and helped to stimulate global debates about systemic data misuse for commercial purposes.

He also works as a trainer in workplace privacy, contributed to donottrack, an interactive web documentary about digital tracking, and occasionally writes for newspapers such as the FAZ and Politico. In 2013, he co-created Data Dealer, an award-winning educational game on personal data and surveillance. EDRi, the association of 45 European digital rights organizations, commended his work on consumer privacy in their 2016, 2017 and 2018 Annual Awards.

Wolfie Christl and his projects have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Financial Times, The Guardian and many other media outlets around the world. He has presented his research in the European Parliament and held many talks, lectures and workshops at conferences throughout Europe and the US, including at universities, federal ministries, re:publica and the Chaos Communications Congress. In 2019, he was a keynote speaker at the conference of the German federal government's Data Ethics Commission.

He provides regular commentary on his research and tech policy debates on Twitter. His tweets helped to initiate a US Congress investigation and got Microsoft to make global changes to one of its enterprise products.

Selected Publications, Interviews, Video

#data4sale (2016)

Talk at a conference by the Norwegian Consumer Council in Oslo

YouTube preview
TEDxVienna (2012)

How to gamify personal data (business)

YouTube preview
Report (2021)

Datafication of work. Massive German-language report on how companies use data on employees, “one of the largest and most comprehensive studies of algorithmic control and surveillance practices at work to date”, according to Oxford scholar Jeremias Prassl.
» crackedlabs.org/daten-arbeitsplatz

Report (2017)

Consumer data. "Corporate Surveillance in Everyday Life", a report that examines how companies collect, trade and exploit personal information on consumers. It has been widely recognized as one of the most comprehensive summaries of today’s personal data industry.
» crackedlabs.org/corporate-surveillance

Paper (2017)

Data against people. Working paper on "automated disadvantage, personalized persuasion, and the societal ramifications of the commercial use of personal information".
» crackedlabs.org/data-against-people

Book (2016)

Networks of Control, a “must-read for anyone who is interested in today's data-driven world”, according to the European Commission’s Paul Nemitz.
» crackedlabs.org/networks-of-control

Project/report (2022)

Gambling data. Report on digital profiling in the online gambling industry that examines how a UK gambling firm collects, shares and exploits personal data on players, commissioned by Clean Up Gambling.
» crackedlabs.org/gambling-data

Project/report (2020)

Mobile data. Investigation into how smartphone apps share data with third parties, together with the Norwegian Consumer Council. Led to the highest GDPR fine in relation to the revenue of a company to date.
» "Out of Control" report
» GDPR fine against Grindr

Op-ed (2020)

Platform power. Opinion piece on Google's Fitbit acquisition by leading EU competition and privacy experts.
» Politico

Report (2020)

Adtech/data. Contributed research to a submission to the Irish data protection authority by Johnny Ryan of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties
» Submission to DPC Ireland

Article (2019)

Political microtargeting. Article on the use of data for political campaigns in a journal of the German Federal Agency for Civic Education
» bpb.de/apuz

Talks, Lectures, Panels

[show all]


Oslo (NO)

Oslo Metropolitan University

Presentation of the "digital surveillance and control at work" report at the DIGIGOV workshop of the Work Research Institute, Oslo Metropolitan University
» algorithmic-governance.com

Brussels (BE)

AI at Work / ETUI

Presentation of the "digital surveillance and control at work" report at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI)
» etui.org

Oxford (UK)

Oxford University

Presentation of the "digital surveillance and control at work" report at the "Algorithms at Work" discussion group hosted by Jeremias Adams-Prassl
» law.ox.ac.uk

Hattingen (DE)

DGB Data Protection Conference

Talk about "digital surveillance and control at work" at the conference on data protection and new technologies of DGB, the German Trade Union Federation
» dgb-bildungswerk.de

Hamburg (DE)

University of Hamburg

Guest lecture at the "Taming the Machines" public lecture series of the Ethics in Information Technology research group at the University of Hamburg, Germany
» Taming the Machines | Abstract | Video

Bochum (DE)

SecHuman Summer School

Lecture/workshop at the "3rd SecHuman Summer School – Brave New World: Security for Humans in Cyberspace", Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
» Website | Program

Darmstadt (DE)

Surveillance, Privacy, and You / Eurocrypt

Talk on "Corporate surveillance of everyday life – How companies use personal data against people" at the conference "SPY – Surveillance, Privacy, and You", part of Eurocrypt 2019
» Website | Program

Tilburg (NL)

TILTing Perspectives conference

Presentation at the "Workshop on the Political Economy of Web Tracking" at Tilburg University
» Program

Berlin (DE)

The German government‘s Data Ethics Commission

Keynote at the conference of the German federal government‘s Data Ethics Commission on "Personalized manipulation, automated inequality, quantified distrust? Some remarks on current techno-social developments"
» Program | Video

Stanford (US)

Stanford University

Workshop on "Technology, Digital Commerce, and the Self" with Peter Galison and others, supported by Carnegie, at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford
» casbs.stanford.edu

Berlin (DE)

netzpolitik.org conference

Talk "Digital Profiles on Billions - Surveillance Capitalism 2018 and How to Move Forward" at the "Das ist Netzpolitik" conference at Volksbühne Berlin
» netzpolitik.org | Abstract | Video

Brussels (BE)

Privacy Camp 2017

Talk and panel "Instant Big Data Targeting: Programmatic Ad Tech & Beyond" at the civil society conference held the day before the start of the CPDP
» privacycamp.eu | Video

Hamburg (DE)

CCC Congress #33c3

Talk "Corporate Surveillance, Digital Tracking, Big Data & Privacy" at the Chaos Communications Congress 2016
» fahrplan.events.ccc.de | Abstract | Video

Oslo (NO)

Norwegian Consumer Council #data4sale

Talk at the conference on the "consequences of the commercial use of consumer data" by the Norwegian Consumer Council
» forbrukerradet.no Video

Vienna (AT)

Privacy and Sustainable Computing Lab

Keynote and book presentation "Networks of Control" at the opening event of the Privacy and Sustainable Computing Lab at Vienna University of Economics and Business ? with Udo Helmbrecht (ENISA), Paul Nemitz (European Commission) and representatives of W3C, Internet Society, IEEE
» privacylab.at

Brussels (BE)

Data Protection and Consumer Rights

Panel Discussion with Renate Nikolay (Head of Cabinet of EU Commissioner V?ra Jourová), Josef Weidenholzer (MEP and Chairman of the Intergroup Digital Agenda in the EU Parliament, Daniela Zimmer (Vienna Chamber of Labour)
» akeuropa.eu

Berlin (DE)

re:publica 2015

Talk about my research at #rp15, one of the largest conferences about digital culture
» Corporate Surveillance in the Age of Digital Tracking, Big Data & IoT

Brussels (BE)

European Parliament

Presentation of my research about digital tracking and corporate surveillance in the European Parliament, at the invitation of MEP's » Joe Weidenholzer and » Michel Reimon
» Invitation

Fürstenfeld (AT)

ICT Security Conference 2014

Talk at the conference of “Cyber Security Austria” and “Abwehramt” - one of two Austrian defense intelligence agencies
» seminar.bundesheer.at

Bozen (IT)

EURAC science cafè

Panel on "big data" at the European Academy Bozen
» sciencecafe.eurac.edu

Vienna (AT)

IMAGINE14 Conference

Talk at the conference on “Future Information and Communication Technology” by OCG and the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology
» imagine-ikt.at

Berlin (DE)

re:publica 2014

Talk at Europe's biggest Internet conference
» re-publica.de | » Abstract


Games for Change Conference

Talk “A Fun Game about Personal Data and Digital Privacy” at the Games for Change Festival 2013, ”Catalyzing Social Impact Through Digital Games”
» gamesforchange.org/festival2013

Vienna (AT)

TEDxVienna 2012

Talk “How to gamify personal data (business)” at TEDxVienna conference
» tedxvienna.at | » ted.com | » Video of the talk

Sofia (BG)

net user II Conference

Talk “Sustainable Web Technologies for Non Profit Organizations”, Interspace Media Art Center
» netuser.cc


Wolfie Christl and his projects in the media:

» Guardian/Observer (05/2023)
» Financial Times (08/2022)
» Politico (07/2022)
» Wired (06/2022)
» Guardian (02/2022)
» OECD Forum (12/2021)
» The Markup (12/2021)
» TechCrunch (10/2021)
» Die Zeit (09/2021)
» Forbes (04/2021)
» India Times (02/2021)
» Wall Street Journal (02/2021)
» El Pais (01/2021)
» Vice/MotherBoard (01/2021)
» Guardian (11/2020)
» The Independent (11/2020)
» The New Republic (11/2020)
» Politico (07/2020)
» TechCrunch (06/2020)
» The Intercept (04/2020)
» Wall Street Journal (03/2020)
» Guardian (02/2020)
» TechCrunch (01/2020)
» Forbes (01/2020)
» Financial Times (12/2019)
» Financial Times (11/2019)
» New York Times (04/2019)
» Financial Times (06/2019)
» India Today (06/2018)
» Washington Post (04/2018)
» Wired (03/2018)
» Guardian (03/2018)
» Boing Boing (01/2018)
» Handelsblatt (10/2017)
» New York Times (07/2013)
» New Yorker (06/2013)