August 15, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 296 — Computing privacy for marginalized populations

Computing systems and services have become ubiquitous in modern society and are deeply embedded in people's daily lives. However, as practices and technologies for ensuring security and privacy of computing systems emerge in this rapidly changing technological landscape, the needs of marginalized and vulnerable populations have been largely unaddressed, as have the consequences of their exclusion. A team of computer and social scientists from Indiana University, the University of Florida, and the University of Washington were recently awarded a $7.5 million NSF grant to address computer privacy and security issues unique to marginalized populations. The University of Florida will lead the project. And two IU researchers -- Apu Kapadia and Kurt Hugenberg -- will lead a nearly $1.5 million portion of the effort. IU faculty bring unique multidisciplinary strengths to the team. Kapadia is a professor of computer science who leads IU's Privacy Lab. He has expertise in secure systems and usable security, as well as extensive experience in camera-based assistive technologies for the visually impaired. Hugenberg is a professor of psychological and brain sciences who directs IU's Stereotyping, Prejudice and Facial Expression Lab. He has expertise in stereotyping and stigma. Together, they will help researchers understand the experiences of marginalized and vulnerable users and help designers build better systems that are both usable and secure for everyone. Hugenberg says designers often have assumptions about who they are designing for, or so-called “default personas,” which are essentially stereotypes about who the typical user is. He says the default persona often includes the majority population or privileged individuals, which is means it can often overlook the needs and capabilities or marginalized and vulnerable users. Kapadia says that ultimately, the team will work with industry and policymakers to translate their research into products used by all Americans, such as the next generation of augmented reality technologies. The research project is part of the National Science Foundation's Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program, which seeks ambitious and potentially transformative center-scale projects in the areas of cybersecurity and privacy.