New projects on privacy and low socioeconomic status

(CC BY-NC 2.0-licensed photo by Axel Drainville.)

Data & Society is pleased to announce three new research projects that will improve understanding of privacy concepts and practices in low-socioeconomic status (low-SES) communities.

Each is supported by a grant from the Digital Trust Foundation, which funds projects that promote online privacy, safety, and security.

We’re really excited to be providing a home for these projects: They link our work on civil rights, labor, and privacy with our concerns around fairness, discrimination, and the uneven effects of data-centric technologies. New empirical work on the ways in which low-SES people and communities experience and view privacy and data-centric technologies is crucial for a grounded public debate on the social and ethical issues at play.

Survey Research into the Privacy and Security Experiences of Low-SES Populations

First, we’re overjoyed that Mary Madden will be joining Data & Society as a researcher in order to helm a robust, nationally representative survey of American adults that includes an oversample of low-SES respondents.

Mary’s survey will make a fundamental contribution to understanding the everyday privacy and security-related behaviors of low-SES adults and seek to answer key questions that can ground the policy conversations and debates about privacy and security in the digital age.

Understanding Privacy as a Means of Economic Redistribution

D&S fellow Karen Levy and affiliate Solon Barocas will investigate how low-SES populations understand and appeal to privacy in order to protect their economic interests in low-wage labor markets. In the low-wage workplace, novel forms of data collection and analysis can operate to entrench inequality and limit workers’ economic power. How can and do the working poor mobilize privacy to shape information flows, in an effort to limit these negative redistributive effects?

Karen and Solon will assess these practices in three work contexts: the impacts of agricultural data collection on small farmers; the use of data-intensive scheduling systems for retail management; and the use of low-wage labor to train production-process robotic systems.

Is “Privacy” the Right Frame?

D&S founder danah boyd and affiliate Alice Marwick ask: When policymakers, advocates, educators, and technologists invoke the term ‘privacy’ in an effort to protect low-status individuals, are they using frames that resonate with those communities? If not, are different groups using different language to describe the same experiences and concerns, or are we talking about different concerns altogether?

The goal of danah and Alice’s study is to better understand the language and framing of privacy issues by low-SES youth who may not use the terms or the rubrics of mainstream debates. We need empirical data about cultural frames and expectations in order to build more effective policies, technologies, and educational interventions.

Please stay tuned as these new projects develop! As always, we welcome your feedback: feedback at datasociety dot net.