News / September 2021

New Grant from Rose Foundation Supports Research on How Communities of Color Experience Surveillance Devices

With support from the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity (CLTC) will be launching a new initiative focused on understanding the privacy implications of always-on home surveillance devices, particularly in communities of color. 

Richmond Wong
CLTC Postdoctoral Fellow Richmond Wong

For the project, “Generating Participatory Understandings of Privacy for Always-On Surveillance Devices,” CLTC researchers — led by Postdoctoral Fellow Richmond Wong — will convene a series of participatory design workshops and conduct interviews with diverse community members from across the San Francisco Bay Area to gain insight into their awareness and perceptions of always-on surveillance.

While California has new laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that protect the data and privacy rights of individual consumers, privately owned, always-on home surveillance devices (such as security cameras) collect data from many people at once and are not as yet regulated. 

“In the last few years, the number of smart devices has proliferated, and privacy laws have not kept up,” Wong explains. “There’s no way to opt-out, for example, from the surveillance from a neighbor’s smart camera. This project will help us understand how privacy risks and other harms related to smart technologies are experienced in unequal ways across society, and elevate voices and perspectives on these technologies that are often left out of the conversation.”

CLTC will be collaborating on the initiative with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC), a social justice organization based in Oakland, California that organizes with Black, Brown, and low-income people to shift resources away from prisons and punishment, and toward opportunities that make communities safe, healthy, and strong. Founded in 1996, the Ella Baker Center was named after a Black hero of the civil rights Freedom Movement who inspired and guided emerging leaders. EBC will partner with CLTC to design the workshops and convene community members to participate. 

The project is part of CLTC’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness about the disparate impacts of emerging digital technologies on communities of color. Earlier this year, CLTC established a memorandum of understanding with The International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP, recently rebranded as Cyversity) to pursue collaborative events, projects, and related fundraising around shared aims, including mitigating unequal harms and ensuring that the benefits of cybersecurity protections and career opportunities are distributed more equitably. 

This first-of-its-kind research on always-on devices will enhance understanding of the diversity of public perceptions around these increasingly prevalent surveillance technologies, and help identify the limits of current privacy laws. It also extends CLTC’s track-record of research related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Ultimately, the research has potential to inform the work of decision-makers who are shaping data and privacy policy at the local, state, and national levels.

Related Projects

Below are links to past and current CLTC-supported research initiatives that aim to help decision-makers act with foresight and expand who participates in and benefits from digital security:

Tune in to CLTC’s  2021 Research Exchange: Fostering Foresight on October 7, 2021 to hear more from Richmond Wong and other CLTC researchers, as well as featured panels on The Future of Public Interest Cybersecurity Clinics and How Leaders Generate and Use Foresight.