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Friday, September 20 • 9:34am - 10:06am
Cell Phones, Security and Social Capital: Examining How Perceptions of Data Privacy Violations Among Cell-Mostly Internet Users Impact Attitudes and Behavior

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This study details the kinds of online privacy tradeoffs that disproportionately impact cell-mostly internet users — who are likely to be Black, Hispanic or low-income. During focus group discussions with 79 cell-mostly internet users in Philadelphia and Long Beach, Calif., we posed three research questions. First, how do cell mostly internet users — who tend to live in economically marginalized communities — articulate the perceived risk factors affecting their mobile phone data practices? In other words, how do they conceptualize data privacy? Second, we explored to what extent do they consider mobile privacy breaches to be discriminatory or unjust? Finally, we asked how do cell mostly internet users alter behavior or pass up opportunities due to privacy concerns? The research finds that members of disadvantaged urban communities who rely on mobile phones to access the internet and frequently use mobile apps, may be disproportionately subjected to privacy violations — sometimes forcing them to alter online behavior in ways that harm personal relationships and limit prospective employment. Study participants reported being on their phones “24/7,” “a few times an hour” and one even commented that the phone “is a part of me.” These anecdotes are supported by the app tracker data we collected from 14 study participants who installed App Usage. The project findings shine light on an increasingly serious problem of digital life — the inequities exacerbated by data insecurity that are experienced by all individuals but are more salient among those living in economic precarity.

avatar for Michael Calabrese

Michael Calabrese

Director, Wireless Future Project, New America Foundation
Michael A. Calabrese directs the Wireless Future Program at New America, a non-profit think tank based in Washington, D.C.  As part of the New America’s Open Technology Institute, he develops and advocates policies to promote ubiquitous, fast and affordable wireless broadband connectivity... Read More →


Jan Fernback

Temple University

Gwen Shaffer

California State University Long Beach

Friday September 20, 2019 9:34am - 10:06am PDT
YT17 WCL, 4300 Nebraska Ave, Washington DC