On January 19th, twenty Hive NYC Learning Network members gathered at Mozilla’s Brooklyn headquarters for a meetup about digital privacy and surveillance. Given the onslaught of hostile policies impacting immigrant, Muslim, women, and marginalized groups in the U.S., there are growing concerns that youth in our programs may be targeted by surveillance, harassment, identity theft and more. Adult allies joined the meetup to collectively develop strategies and tools to best support youth members in protecting their digital profiles. Chris Lawrence, V.P. of Learning at the Mozilla Foundation, welcomed Hive NYC members and set the tone by sharing Mozilla’s commitment to stewarding important discussions addressing Internet Health issues related to privacy and security.
This meetup was led by two super guest facilitators from Research Action Design (RAD). Bex Hurwitz and Sarah Aoun, who also were part of The Glass Room, are educators and data activists who work to support communities using digital strategies, collaboratively designed tech, and media, to build the power of grassroots social movements. We invited them to lead a resource and skills building workshop to explore the following goals:
- Learn how educators and allies could foster collective learning about data, privacy, surveillance, and security with their youth.
- Identify ways Hive members can create safe online spaces and serve as a privacy/security resources for the young people they work with.
You can take a look at the Hive NYC Meetup Agenda here. Participants in the workshop discussed the varied privacy and security concerns they had for their youth, especially with so many organizations being ill prepared to facilitate discussions about how individuals can secure their data. Members sought this opportunity to explore strategies that help make information and data protection tools accessible to young activists and high-risk communities. With the added challenge of addressing apathy towards why we should care about who is building a digital profile of them. “I have nothing to hide”.
Building awareness about the susceptibility of information starts with investigating daily interactions with technology. Participating members selected scenarios from their organizations to develop a persona based on their youth participants, in order to map the daily usage of web-based communications tools they often use. This activity encourages young people and practitioners to track their digital footprint and explore what data is being collected to answer the following questions:
- Who is doing the surveilling; schools, parents, private companies, and police.
- What information is being collected/stolen; location, photos, email, phone, comments, status, and political interventions.
- Strategies for collecting information; confusing data policies, terms of service, right to ownership, third party sites.
- What are the dangers; identity theft, profiling, surveillance, discrimination, manipulating consent, censorship, doxing.
Mapping out and identifying the digital traces left behind sparked conversations of how to systemize spaces for analysis building, informed decision making, and strategies for protection at youth-serving organizations. A crucial step identified was the need to explore what educators and youth participants are already doing to combat data theft and surveillance. Using the questions above and assessing knowledge already in the room serve as building blocks to develop a risk assessment method with youth participants. Based on their collective and individual experiences (ex. court involved, immigration status, religious affiliations, politics, identity etc.), understanding the value of their data, and setting priorities to address these risks.
The creation of systems for community knowledge sharing could be a benefit to member organizations, serving as tools to compile new practices and resources. As adult allies, we can foster and celebrate participatory spaces that empower young people to personalize their protection. Some brainstormed methods to encourage and put to practice community knowledge-sharing are:
- Collectively developed Community Agreements; guidelines and practices set by youth, educators, and across programs to shift organizational culture on digital privacy (e.g. scheduled assessments of security measures, regulate use of privacy and protection tools, etc.)
- Installing a living Community Knowledge Sharing document at your organization; inviting youth to brainstorm tools (e.g. posting a large poster of the knowledge sharing folks can contribute to)
- Creating opportunities for young people to be leaders and peer educators; commit space for peer support in teaching action steps to reduce data trails (e.g. setting privacy settings, turning off geolocator on phones etc.)
- Accessible tools and resources; easy access to a list of resources that young people can use and share with their communities. (e.g. resources listed on organization’s website, regular training with guest facilitators, like RAD!)
Our programs strive to equip young people with the 21st-century skills to prepare them for the world ahead, feeling empowered to present themselves as the powerful individuals they are. Through supportive interactions with educators, young people not only learn about their interests in coding, game design, and video but build power over their own learning trajectories and identities. Members identified the importance of using the same youth development practices to help young people see the value in their data and to maintain autonomy over what happens to it.
A repertoire of connected tools is making it more convenient for young people to seek opportunities through online platforms (e.g. programs to advance skills, internships, networking, employment etc.). As well as advancing ways for their information to be tracked. It is inherent that adult allies not discourage young people from using these tools, but to support young people in navigating and making the best use of them. This is an opportunity to discuss how they would like to show up in these platforms, how to choose what information they actively share, and what they would like to keep private. Privacy is not a matter of what you want to hide, it’s about who has power over your data and how you choose to present yourself to the world.
As we encourage young people to be leaders in the fields they master, they have the opportunity to share data protection knowledge as leaders in their communities and build agency with other experiences. Members at the meetup agreed that with current policies enacted and surveillance measures being double-downed, communities most at risk need support from their allies and supportive institutions to stay informed and safe. The option to host peer and community share outs of lessons learned could be one way of helping our communities combat oppressive data collection practices. Crypto Parties in New York City can serve as an example of how you can create an inclusive, safe, decentralized space to support those in need to learn how to encrypt their online presense.
Hive NYC member developed a resource list of articles, apps/add-ons, curriculum to help youth workers develop materials to share with youth leaders of their organization. The objective of this list is to provide accessible materials that educators can integrate into conversations, programs, and learning. As well as serve as resources to share with the wider community:
- Mozilla Internet Health Report
- How to Encrypt Your Entire Life: “Only the paranoid survive” – Article by Andy Grove
- Digital Security training resources for security trainers, Winter 2017 Edition
- MyShadow.org: helps you control your data traces, see how you’re being tracked, and learn more about the data industry – resource and curriculum
- Data Detox kits: small steps to change your habits and reduce data traces
- Crypto Parties – Helping Stay Anonymous Online: Decentralized gatherings to learn how to stay safe, private, and secure online
- Find a Crypto-Party in NYC
- Autofill Used to Steal Personal Data in New Phishing Attack: The Guardian article
- Privacy Settings of Firefox: Step by step on how to take control over your privacy settings
- Firefox Focus: new free private browser for iOS
- Privacy Badger: add-on that blocks spying ads and invisible trackers
- Lightbeam: Mozilla add-on map out their day and see who sees it
- Duo Push: 2 step verification tool and app for multiple accounts in your life
We welcome readers to add more resources below in the comments section, as well as pose questions to keep this discussion going. You can also follow this link to the meetup notes.