Student Theses and Projects: Privacy, Online Profiling and Information Technology: A qualitative study of Google and Facebook


Thesis (MA/DA); Reference-number: 2017-180

Advisor(s): Sebastian Hermes


The EU is currently intensifying its investigations regarding the business practices of major US Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. The prosecutions include the fact that Google and Facebook engage in illegal activities, which are not compatible with European data protection directives. These illegal activities comprise for example tracking people online without their consent and abusing power in search. To the detriment of European firms, these violations build the cornerstones of US Internet companies' business in Europe. In brief, such business models are based on one or both of the following activities. First, dominance of online search to control what user see and what user do not see in search results. On the one hand, this generates revenues from companies that want or need to be able to be found on the Internet and, on the other hand, makes it possible to close off competing offers. This is especially evident in the event of search portal operators expanding into new markets. Second, disregard of data protection guidelines that can be used to carry out extremely precise target marketing. This thesis will therefore investigate what consumers know about these practices and capabilities and if consumers perceive these practices as harmful or not.


  • Conducting a literature review on privacy and online profiling.
  • Conducting at least 20 interviews with Google and Facebook users.
  • Determining consumers’ knowledge and perception about Google’s and Facebook’s capabilities and business practices and deriving future prospects (e.g. regulative actions) 


  • High degree of autonomy and individual responsibility
  • Interest and experience in qualitative research
  • Very good grades and a good command of English language are beneficial 


Edelman, B. (2015). Does Google leverage market power through tying and bundling? Journal of Competition Law and Economics, 11(2), 365-400.

Edelman, B., and Geradin, D. (2016). Android and competition law: exploring and assessing Google’s practices in mobile. European Competition Journal, 12(2-3), 159-194.

Parker, G. G., and Van Alstyne, M. W. (2005). Two-sided network effects: A theory of information product design. Management science, 51(10), 1494-1504.

Markovikj, D. et al. “Mining Facebook Data for Predictive Personality Modeling”, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Technical Report WS-13-01, (2013) pp. 23-26.

Clemons, E. K. and Wilson, J. “Modeling Competition in Mandatory Participation Third Party Payer Business Models: The Complex Case of Sponsored Search”, (Eric K. Clemons, Josh Wilson), Proceedings, 49th International Conference on System Sciences, Wailea, Hawaii, January 2016).

Clemons, E. K, and Madhani, N. “Regulation of Digital Businesses with Natural Monopolies Or Third Party Payment Business Models: Antitrust Lessons from the Analysis of of Google,” Journal of Management Information Systems, Vol. 27 No. 3, (2010), pp. 43-80.

Further Information

The topic can be adopted according to your interests. The thesis can be written in English or German. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact me directly.

Please send your application including our application form, "Notenauszug" from TUMonline, and CV to Please note that we can only consider applications with complete documents.