Stories from Survivors: Privacy & Security Practices when Coping with Intimate Partner Abuse

Tara Matthews
Tara Matthews
Anna Turner
Anna Turner
Martin Shelton
Martin Shelton
Cori Manthorne
Cori Manthorne

CHI, pp. 2189-2201, 2017.

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digital privacytechnology creatordomestic violenceintimate partner abusePrivacyMore(6+)
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Our results suggest that usability and control of privacy and security functions should be or continue to be high priority goals of technology creators seeking to support survivors of intimate partner abuse

Abstract:

We present a qualitative study of the digital privacy and security motivations, practices, and challenges of survivors of intimate partner abuse (IPA). This paper provides a framework for organizing survivors' technology practices and challenges into three phases: physical control, escape, and life apart. This three-phase framework combin...More

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Introduction
  • With the prominence and pervasiveness of technology in the lives, technology users have reason to attend to their digital privacy and security.
  • Much personal information is collected and stored in online accounts: location in order to power navigation or fitness apps, photos on social media, personal communications in messaging and email apps, and so on.
  • Privacy and security features can help protect users’ data from malicious third parties.
  • For many technology users, the potential actions of an ill-intentioned third party seem an unlikely concern.
  • CHI 2017, May 06-11, 2017, Denver, CO, USA ACM 978-1-4503-4655-9/17/05. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3025875
Highlights
  • With the prominence and pervasiveness of technology in our lives, technology users have reason to attend to their digital privacy and security
  • We present a study of the digital privacy and security motivations, practices, and challenges of a specific population facing higher levels of risk in their daily lives: survivors of intimate partner abuse (IPA)
  • Usability of Privacy & Security Technologies During all phases of intimate partner abuse, survivors’ stories demonstrated that the usability of privacy and security features is important, emphasizing findings from prior work focused on the general population [26,30,43] in a higher risk context
  • CONCLUSION & FUTURE WORK We presented a qualitative study of the digital privacy and security motivations, practices, and challenges of survivors of intimate partner abuse
  • Our results suggest that usability and control of privacy and security functions should be or continue to be high priority goals of technology creators seeking to support survivors of intimate partner abuse
  • Future work could extend this research to other intimate partner abuse survivors, including those in different SES groups, different age groups, and outside the U.S While our study focused on adults, teens are common victims of intimate partner abuse who may have specific technology practices and needs
Methods
  • The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 survivors of IPA. as part of this research, the authors performed a thorough ethics review to inform the methods and reporting.
  • The authors consulted the literature and over a dozen experts in domains including survivors of IPA, human subjects research, legal, ethics, security, privacy, and anonymization.
  • The authors describe participants and recruiting, procedures, data collected, participant and researcher wellbeing, analysis, anonymization, and ethical considerations in reporting this research.
  • Once the study plan was final, agency staff recruited participants through personal contact according to criteria the authors specified.
  • Agency staff distributed a copy of the consent materials to potential participants, identifying the affiliation of the researchers, and providing them an opportunity to decline participation prior to any contact with us
Results
  • Phases of IPA that Affected Technology Use The survivors the authors interviewed had escaped their abusers and were in the process of finding new housing, jobs, schools for their children, and other social services.
  • These survivors had all experienced a similar trajectory of abuse that aligned with prior work [32,37], beginning with their experiences being in a relationship with an abusive intimate partner, planning and carrying out an escape, and beginning a new life after leaving their abuser.
  • I could just call him whenever I need him, just so he’s the only one.” -P12
Conclusion
  • The privacy and security practices and challenges the authors outline for survivors of IPA complicate simple notions of risk often used as the basis for technology design.
  • A key contribution of this paper is a three-phase framework for organizing survivors' technology practices and challenges
  • This framework provides empirically sound, foundational guidance for technology creators to consider how new and existing technologies may be designed to help survivors of IPA.
  • This framework and the stories from survivors add nuance and render visible the different and complicated kinds of digital privacy and security challenges they face given their particular life circumstances.
  • Future qualitative research could explore in-depth other technology issues that impact survivors, such as the role of technology-mediated social support in survivors’ lives, or how survivors discover digital attacks by abusers
Summary
  • Introduction:

    With the prominence and pervasiveness of technology in the lives, technology users have reason to attend to their digital privacy and security.
  • Much personal information is collected and stored in online accounts: location in order to power navigation or fitness apps, photos on social media, personal communications in messaging and email apps, and so on.
  • Privacy and security features can help protect users’ data from malicious third parties.
  • For many technology users, the potential actions of an ill-intentioned third party seem an unlikely concern.
  • CHI 2017, May 06-11, 2017, Denver, CO, USA ACM 978-1-4503-4655-9/17/05. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3025875
  • Methods:

    The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 survivors of IPA. as part of this research, the authors performed a thorough ethics review to inform the methods and reporting.
  • The authors consulted the literature and over a dozen experts in domains including survivors of IPA, human subjects research, legal, ethics, security, privacy, and anonymization.
  • The authors describe participants and recruiting, procedures, data collected, participant and researcher wellbeing, analysis, anonymization, and ethical considerations in reporting this research.
  • Once the study plan was final, agency staff recruited participants through personal contact according to criteria the authors specified.
  • Agency staff distributed a copy of the consent materials to potential participants, identifying the affiliation of the researchers, and providing them an opportunity to decline participation prior to any contact with us
  • Results:

    Phases of IPA that Affected Technology Use The survivors the authors interviewed had escaped their abusers and were in the process of finding new housing, jobs, schools for their children, and other social services.
  • These survivors had all experienced a similar trajectory of abuse that aligned with prior work [32,37], beginning with their experiences being in a relationship with an abusive intimate partner, planning and carrying out an escape, and beginning a new life after leaving their abuser.
  • I could just call him whenever I need him, just so he’s the only one.” -P12
  • Conclusion:

    The privacy and security practices and challenges the authors outline for survivors of IPA complicate simple notions of risk often used as the basis for technology design.
  • A key contribution of this paper is a three-phase framework for organizing survivors' technology practices and challenges
  • This framework provides empirically sound, foundational guidance for technology creators to consider how new and existing technologies may be designed to help survivors of IPA.
  • This framework and the stories from survivors add nuance and render visible the different and complicated kinds of digital privacy and security challenges they face given their particular life circumstances.
  • Future qualitative research could explore in-depth other technology issues that impact survivors, such as the role of technology-mediated social support in survivors’ lives, or how survivors discover digital attacks by abusers
Tables
  • Table1: Overview of survivor-reported attacks by abusers, and privacy and security practices used by survivors (N=15). From our data, we could not organize survivor practices by phase in this table, but tendencies are presented in the Results
Download tables as Excel
Related work
  • Here we outline prior research on the usability of privacy and security technologies, frameworks of IPA, technology use by abusers and survivors, and digital IPA interventions.

    Usability of Privacy and Security Technologies Prior research has demonstrated repeatedly that designing for privacy and security concerns is notoriously complex, many aspects of which remain highly challenging despite considerable research effort. For example, prior studies have shown that it can be difficult for users to understand the complexities of online security [26,43], Wi-Fi security [11], social media sharing mechanisms [24], and more. Thus, users sometimes adopt usage strategies with suboptimal privacy and security outcomes [26,30,43]. Taking into account these challenges, prior work has focused on improving the usability of general online privacy and security technologies [1,13,14,22,27,38]. We explore similar issues, but contribute by focusing on a specific population: survivors of IPA. Survivors are often under extraordinary stress due to their life circumstances, which may make it even more difficult for them to pay attention to the complexities of managing their digital privacy and security.
Funding
  • Presents a qualitative study of the digital privacy and security motivations, practices, and challenges of survivors of intimate partner abuse
  • Provides a framework for organizing survivors' technology practices and challenges into three phases: physical control, escape, and life apart
  • Presents a study of the digital privacy and security motivations, practices, and challenges of a specific population facing higher levels of risk in their daily lives: survivors of intimate partner abuse
  • Focused on women and men living in the U.S., of low socioeconomic status and tech literacy, accepting housing and/or services at a non-profit IPA or homeless shelter
  • Contribute by focusing on a specific population: survivors of IPA
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