ESRs secondments at AGCM, GPDP and VUB

In this special edition of our blog posts, seven of our ESRs write about their experiences and insights they made during their secondments. ESR Cristian Lepore and Aizhan Abdrassulova share their secondment experiences in this post.


The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM) is the Italian competition authority and is responsible for enforcing rules against anti-competitive agreements among undertakings, abuses of dominant positions, and concentrations that have anti-competitive effects.

ESR Cristian Lepore at the AGCM

During a one-month secondment at the Italian competition authority in Rome, I focused on various analytical and research tasks related to data management, online privacy, and information acquisition from major gatekeepers, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

Activities were as follows:

  1. Data Analysis and Tool Development:

We firstly examined two distinct datasets, Orbis and Pitchbook. The analysis was streamlined by the following Python program (published on GitHub): This tool foresees its value in uncovering correlations within the datasets and enhancing the understanding of database differences.

  1. Information Solicitations and Online Privacy:

We investigated the information requests made during website access by key gatekeepers. While most of these requests aligned with established policies, we raised concerns about data collection through HTML scripts embedded in websites, which could impact online privacy. Additionally, we evaluated cookies and potential vulnerabilities that gatekeepers could use to acquire additional information. The results indicates that most of the information collected by gatekeepers came from open sessions with websites or mobile devices, where access keys (and personal identifiers) were periodically changed, maintaining a weak link to individuals, which is generally positive. For a clear view of the field, we conducted a comprehensive review of academic literature, revealing that while it’s technically possible to collect more information than allowed, most of this information relies on changing keys and has a limited connection to users.

  1. Network Traffic Analysis:

We used network traffic analysis to trace login tokens from web portals and cookies. However, some of the traffic was encrypted and required third-party authorization for access. As a result, the analysis was limited to the size of plaintext packets, revealing a significant surplus of information compared to web portals mandate.

In conclusion, my secondment at the Market Authority was an enlightening experience that significantly contributed to the understanding of the challenges associated with data protection and online privacy. The work conducted has laid a strong foundation for future studies and initiatives in this dynamic and evolving field.


The Garante per la protezione dei dati personali (GPDP) is the Italian Data Protection Authority and responsible for monitoring the application of the GDPR.


ESR Aizhana Abdrassulova at VUB and GPDP

ESR Aizhana completed her first academic secondment at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in the spring of 2023. This experience turned out to be very fruitful for her. During her stay, Aizhana expanded her knowledge of her topic, she had several offline meetings with Professor Gloria Gonzalez Fuster, discussing the topic of her research. Aizhana also participated in several seminars for the university’s doctoral students. She attended the doctoral seminar ‘With great power comes great responsibility: proportionality within the use of facial recognition technology’ and “ALTEP-DP case law round up” about the conflict of interests – the right to be forgotten versus freedom of expression.

On May 24-26, one of the most ambitious scientific events, organized by Professor Paul de Hert, took place in Brussels – CPDP 2023: Ideas that drive our digital world. The sponsors and speakers were representatives of prominent companies such as European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Apple, Mozilla, Google, Microsoft, Uber, Tik Tok and others. Aizhana carried out volunteer activities at this conference. She helped with logistics and organization (duty in the halls during sessions, as well as registration of conference guests). In her free time from volunteering, she attended Conference sessions.

Furthermore, Aizhana attended the scientific event “Brussels Privacy Hub – EU Digital Finance Seminar Series: Session 3 Cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance, and data protection: an unsolvable problem?”.

The second non-academic secondment is currently taking place at the Italian Data Protection Authority GPDP in Rome. Over the past two months of secondment, Aizhana had several meetings with Dr. Roberto Lattanzi, discussing the directions of her research.

There was an acquaintance with colleagues, as well as with the work of the organization. Aizhan is studying an EDPB-EDPS Joint Opinion 5/2021 on the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down harmonized rules on artificial intelligence (Artificial Intelligence Act), which the Organization is currently working on.

Finally, during an offline meeting of the organization’s employees, Aizhana presented her research. Aizhan has access to the library directly next to the office, which makes it possible to study new sources of literature.

ESRs secondments at Université Paul Sabatier III, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and Tellu

In this special edition of our blog posts, seven of our ESRs write about their experiences and insights they made during their secondments. In this post, ESR Barbara and Xengie share their secondment experiences.

ESR Barbara Lazarotto at Paul Sabatier III Toulouse

Barbara’s secondment at Université Paul Sabatier III in Toulouse proved to be an invaluable experience, propelling her research to a multidisciplinary field. This immersive collaboration with experts from the field of data science, allowed Barbara to explore the transformative potential of data commons in fostering open and collaborative data access.

Central to her secondment was a comprehensive case study on the creation of a data commons for electric-powered devices. This hands-on approach enabled Barbara to delve into the intricate details of data governance and data sharing mechanisms, gaining a profound understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with data commons implementation. The multidisciplinary environment at Université Paul Sabatier III provided Barbara with a unique perspective, exposing her to a wide spectrum of research methodologies and data analysis techniques. This cross-disciplinary exposure enriched her own research, enabling her to expand her focus beyond legal considerations and delve into the data science aspects of data commons.

Barbara’s secondment at Université Paul Sabatier III marked a pivotal moment in her research trajectory. The exposure to diverse perspectives, the hands-on experience with data commons implementation, and the exploration of a multitude of use cases have undoubtedly shaped her understanding of the topic and fueled her passion for advancing the field of data commons research.

The LeADS Partners


Tellu is an SME experiencing significant growth since 2017, going from 5 employees in 2017 currently being 17 employees expecting to be 25 employees end of 2020. Tellu main offering includes TelluCloud an eHealth and welfare integration platform for connectivity, device management, edge computing, data gathering, data processing, and presentation as well as SaaS solutions for remote patient monitoring, video based supervision, and Personnel safety. The platform offers complete management and trustworthy execution and processing across the IoT, edge, and cloud space.

ESR Xengie Doan at SSSA and Tellu

ESR9, Xengie Doan, went to visit Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (SSSA) Pisa in February and March 2023 under the supervision of Professor Francesca Chiaromonte. They are a statistician who works with biomedical data and other types of data. While the data collected in Xengie’s research is largely qualitative data with a small sample size, it was interesting to explore methods to analyze it and ideate on how it would be different with large data.  This coincided with the Statistical Learning & Large Data, Modules 1 and 2 courses which Xengie attended. Classes covered a large span of methods to cover the overall concepts, then going over examples in R at the end. This would help with code examples for any future analyses. It was very interesting to get insight into different statistical learning and large data methods from an expert in the field.

The industry secondment is at Tellu, where Xengie is currently visiting until November 2023. They have a use case where a patient and their next-of-kin consents to help with some of the responsibilities that traditionally healthcare personnel would do 100% of the time. This is relevant to their topic studying collective consent models. Some activities include reviewing policies or consent forms and documentation to create methods and tools to improve the consent process. Interviews will be then carried out to validate those methods and tools based on feedback from members of the company. As the secondment is still ongoing, insights are still pending but should be shared in a paper next year.

ESRs Secondments at BY.TE, AGCM, MMI and University of Luxemburg

In this special edition of our blog posts, seven of our ESRs write about their experiences and insights they made during their secondments.

Secondments enable ESRs to engage with prominent academics and practitioners at both partner universities and research institutes as well as industrial and regulatory entities. ESRs gain practical experience in how their research might translate into real-life problems encountered by businesses. At the same time, ESRs will be able to complement their research with practical experiences gained throughout the secondment and adapt their research projects accordingly. Finally, they also constitute an invaluable networking opportunity and grant our ESRs the possibility to identify possible career paths. Whether in the academic, regulatory, or industry sectors.

Each ESR will complete two secondments: one at a beneficiary (universities and research institutes) and one at the partners (industry or regulatory bodies) of the LeADS project.

The LeADS Partners

ΒΥΤΕ COMPUTER S.A. is a Greek Information Technology and Communications (ICT) Integrator company with a dynamic presence of over 30 years in the Greek ICT Market and a focus on the private sector. BYTE has 3 business segments: 1) systems Integration, 2) custom software application development, and 3) value-added services, including consulting, project management, and training services.


The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM) is the Italian competition authority and is responsible for enforcing rules against anti-competitive agreements among undertakings, abuses of dominant positions, and concentrations that have anti-competitive effects.

ESR Tommaso Crepax at BY.TE and AGCM

In the last eight months, the journey of Tommaso Crepax Ph.D. in the LeADS project has become a challenging exploration into the web of data portability within the EU digital market. Two pivotal secondments during this odyssey—one at BY.TE software company in Athens and the other at the esteemed Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) in Rome—have proven instrumental in shaping the trajectory of his research.

His secondment at BYTE in Athens was an enlightening experience, spanning two months immersed in the world of cutting-edge software development. The technical issues of his research—determining specific formats for seamless data porting—found his solution through the lens of BY.TE’s work on electronic health records (EHRs). The health information systems they adeptly navigated provided a rich canvas of examples, allowing them to address challenges and nuances in his thesis, specifically through the adaptation of EHR formats to datasets created through the use of commercial software. Witnessing firsthand how BY.TE tackled the intricacies of EHRs not only broadening his understanding of data formats but also offering practical solutions that enhanced the robustness of his research.

The AGCM secondment in Rome provided a different but equally vital perspective. Engaging with cases where data portability emerged as a critical issue underscored the real-world implications of his theoretical framework. The interplay between data protection and competition, a recurring theme in his thesis, revealed itself with striking clarity. AGCM’s expertise and the cases they delved into reaffirmed the significance of balancing these two pillars in the ever-evolving digital landscape. The experience deepened his appreciation for the legal intricacies surrounding data portability, illuminating the regulatory challenges faced by businesses and authorities alike.

BY.TE and AGCM, with their unique perspectives, have not only enriched his academic pursuits but have also contributed invaluable insights to the ongoing discourse on unchaining data portability in the EU digital market. The lessons learned from Athens and Rome will undoubtedly shape the future landscape of data legality and portability –as will the amazing people he has met on his personal journey.


MMI is a Pisa-based company whose mission is to enable surgeons around the world to address unmet needs and achieve better outcomes for microsurgical procedures. MMI offers an innovative robotic platform that’s mobile, easy to set up, compatible with existing surgical microscopes, and has a small footprint.


ESR Christos Magkos at MMI and University of Luxemburg

Upon visiting the MMI institute in Pisa, Christos Magkos encountered a very positive and vibrant environment. He both helped in organizing the data management cycle and experienced at full length how clinical trial data is collected and processed, leading to translational and actionable results. This was pertinent to his personal research as it is centered around personal health data analytics, and experiencing it at such a high level was extremely fruitful and interesting.

At the University of Luxembourg, he became part of a team of interdisciplinary researchers, all of whom were offering unique perspectives in the domain of legal and ethical data science. As of now, he is in collaboration with a UL-based researcher, and along with Dr. Gabriele Lenzini, he hopes to be part of a paper on the caveats that AI-assisted coding may pose in cybersecurity.

Unraveling the Threads of Progress: Barbara’s Insightful Challenge to Technocentrism at 4S Conference

On November 08, 2023, Barbara Lazarotto virtually attended the Society for Social Studies of Science 2023 Conference, a conference that focused on Science, Technology, and Society and Science and Technology Studies that took place in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Barbara presented her research titled “The history of datafication and the rise of the concept of smart”, a presentation which aimed to draw the historical roots of datafication, tracing it back to the Industrial Revolution. Throughout her presentation, Barbara unraveled the intricate web of beliefs that have given rise to “technological solutionism” and the phenomenon of “smart governments.”

Barbara began her exploration by tracing the deep historical roots of technological determinism. From the advent of the steam engine to the information age, the belief that technology is the primary driver of innovation and societal progress has been a persistent undercurrent.

The allure of technological solutionism lies in the belief that technology holds the answers to all problems. This worldview, deeply ingrained in contemporary society, has not only influenced individual attitudes but has also permeated governmental structures, paving the way for the rise of “smart governments.”

Barbara highlighted the lack of academic consensus on the precise definition of “smart governments.” However, she explained that the prevailing understanding views it as the utilization of diverse technologies by the public sector. This includes the incorporation of sensors, artificial intelligence, and big data to enhance governmental efficiency. This techno-deterministic outlook presupposes that technology is the primary driver of improved public administration.

In conclusion, Barbara’s presentation challenged the prevailing narrative of technological determinism and its manifestation in smart governments. By advocating for a more holistic approach that recognizes the intertwined nature of technological and socio-technical factors, she urged the audience to reconsider blind faith in technology as the sole driver of progress which can taint potential mechanisms of regulation, which tend to focus on technology as the sole solutions to all problems, disregarding other potential socio-technical solutions.

Barbara’s presentation was also reflected in a paper that will soon be published.