Visible to the public EAGER: Digital Inequalities in the Heartland: Exploring the Information Security Experiences of Marginalized Internet UsersConflict Detection Enabled

Project Details

Performance Period

Oct 01, 2017 - Sep 30, 2019


University of Kansas Center for Research

Award Number

This project aims to understand how Internet technology may affect patrons' privacy and data security when they use public access computers, and to develop technical solutions that will enable these individuals to go online more safely and securely. The project concentrates especially on people who are economically poor and vulnerable to risk, such as very young or old people, people of color, immigrants, Native people, non-English speakers, and the disabled. Often these patrons must rely on public libraries for their broadband Internet access. The research team will study the day-to-day use patterns and security experiences of users in the public libraries of two diverse communities in northeast Kansas, and develop a prototype device with built-in security and privacy protections that can be delivered using an inexpensive, portable USB-style device to help patrons go online more safely. The researchers' goal is to enable these public-use patrons to have the same access and protections as those using their own computers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that public-use Internet users may be more likely the targets of online scams, identity theft, differential and predatory pricing, and discriminatory profiling; the direct impact of these security risks on life chances can be profound. To understand the security experiences of these marginalized users, the research team will conduct ethnographic research in the public libraries of two diverse communities in northeast Kansas. Whereas this field research will help us develop detailed knowledge of the subjects' activities and needs and to modify our technical strategy, we will develop, as a starting point, a prototype with three functions: 1) password and key protection; 2) browsing privacy and portability; and 3) fine-grained, ubiquitous control delivered with a USB-style device. This novel and, as of now, untested, interdisciplinary approach seeks to address fundamental knowledge shortcomings and practical challenges in the areas of security, privacy, and trust.