Apple recently announced plans to unveil new tools to limit the spread of sexual abuse material through their devices. While this action has drawn praise from some privacy and security experts and child protection advocacy groups, there has also been an outcry about its invasion of privacy. Indiana University Bloomington professors Bennett Bertenthal, Apu Kapadia and Kurt Hugenberg say these concerns have obscured another even more troublesome problem – the fact that Apple’s new features have been shown by research to backfire. The IU researchers have studied why people share risky images online, and their most recent research reveals that warnings about privacy on social media do not reduce photo-sharing or increase concern about privacy. Instead, they say, these warnings can increase risky sharing of photos. Some of Apple’s new features will rely on parental control. While many view parental control as necessary and effective, the researchers say this isn’t always the case, and they have found that warnings about privacy violations often backfire. Their research has revealed that participants who received warnings as simple as stating that they should take others’ privacy into account were more likely to share risky photos than participants who did not receive this warning. The researchers have seen this occur multiple times and have found that several factors, like a person’s humor style or photo sharing experience, can influence their willingness to share photos and how they might respond to warnings. One explanation for these findings is suggested by research demonstrating that an individual’s concern about privacy may be lessened when they underestimate the risks of sharing. Also, a reaction to seemingly unnecessary rules or prompts may lead to the opposite effect. The researchers say it is possible that some children will be more inclined to send or receive sexually explicit photos after receiving a warning from Apple due to a variety of factors, ranging from curiosity to challenging parent’s authority to reputational concerns. Apple recently announced it is delaying the rollout of these new tools because of concerns expressed by the privacy and security community. The company will collect input and make improvements before releasing the new features. Bertenthal, Kapadia and Hugenberg say it is important for Apple to engage with researchers during this time to ensure the new tools will reduce, rather than encourage, problematic photo-sharing.
In other news, 1 in 7 people in Indiana is food insecure – an issue recently tackled by a team of graduate students from the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI as part of the 2021 Indy Civic Hackathon. Akash Rode, Sarah Nikkhah and Hinal Kiri took first place with their mobile app concept for addressing food insecurity, which they named Food Friend Indiana. The Indy Civic Hackathon is an annual event supported by local government agencies nonprofits, for-profits, and community groups to make more government datasets accessible to the public. Participants, like IUPUI’s team, are encouraged to use the vast amount of data available to respond to societal challenges. Through their work, the IUPUI students discovered that around 1 million people in Indiana are food insecure, a term meaning there is a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle, and that there is a stigma around locating and using food-related resources. They also discovered that while nonprofit organizations and volunteers play a substantial role in addressing food insecurity, two out of three decreased or stopped volunteer activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The students’ app aims to solve problems for all types of users: organizations, volunteers and clients. The app will connect a food insecure person to an organization, and will also help the organization function more efficiently with more volunteers, as well as better publicize their work. The app will allow organizations to create a dashboard that manages events and communicates with volunteers. Volunteers can use the dashboard to search and explore opportunities to help, make donations, and more. And clients can search for specific services, review event details, and find healthy meal recipes. The students say the Hackathon made them realize the depth of the food insecurity problem in Indianapolis, and how research and technology design can be another significant way of giving back to the community.