Aylin Alexa Zainea wins first-ever AP Thesis Award


Aylin Alexa Zainea (Leiden University) has won the first-ever AP Thesis Award with her master's thesis 'Automated Decision-Making in Online Platforms: Protection Against Discrimination and Manipulation of Behavior'. This was announced during the awards ceremony in The Hague on Monday, January 29.

The year’s theme of the award was 'supervision of algorithms'. This is a broad theme that fits in well with the DPA’s strengthening and expanding supervision of algorithms and AI. In her thesis, Aylin Alexa addresses the question to what extent the GDPR and the proposed AI-act provide sufficient protection against discrimination and behavioral manipulation through automated decision-making by online platforms. She concludes that no new regulations are needed. Zainea does make a number of recommendations for the GDPR and AI Act, with the aim of increasing protection. She emphasizes that an increase in enforcement of the GDPR is essential for uniform supervision of automated decision-making by online platforms.

The jury appreciates the focus on discrimination and behavioral manipulation in her thesis, in particular when it comes to ‘acceptable’ manipulation. They find this is a surprising angle to take. They are also impressed by the accessibility with which complex topics such as AI and algorithms are described in the thesis.

As winner of the AP thesis prize, Zainea receives 2000 euros.

Other nominees

Two other nominees, Joosje van Riel and Danny Mekić, share second place and each receive 1000 euros:

  • Joosje van Riel (VU Amsterdam) wrote a master's thesis on the challenges of protecting personal data in the context of so-called 'smart cities'.
  • Danny Mekić (Open University) wrote a master's thesis about what it does to people when they are confronted with automated decision-making and to what extent they trust it.


The theses were assessed by a jury consisting of Aleid Wolfsen (chair of the DPA), Cecile Schut (director of System Supervision, Security and Technology DPA) and Marleen Stikker (director and co-founder of Waag).

You can read the full theses below: 

Danny Mekić, Aylin Alexa Zainea, Joosje van Riel en Aleid Wolfsen bij uitreiking scriptieprijs
Danny Mekić, Aylin Alexa Zainea, Joosje van Riel and Aleid Wolfsen during the ceremony.

AP Thesis Award

The Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) awarded a thesis prize for the first time. The AP hopes to encourage talented students to conduct relevant scientific research in the field of data protection. This provides valuable new knowledge and insights. The theme to which the theses must be linked varies every year. The AP will again give out an award next year. More information about the award will be made available through this website. 

Aylin Alexa Zainea en Aleid Wolfsen bij uitreiking scriptieprijs