April 7 2022 GM

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Glitter Meetups

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IFF Square on the IFF Mattermost, at 9am EST / 1pm UTC. Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.

Date: Thursday, April 7th

Time: 9am EST / 2pm UTC

Who: Maya Ninova & Nicholas Merrill

Where: As a guest of the Glitter Meetup on IFF Mattermost Square Channel.

Digital Privacy and Security Survey 2021

A discussion about the results of Calyx Institute’s first Digital Privacy and Security Survey. The study was conducted between October and December 2021 and a total of 1146 individuals from different parts of the world responded the online survey, which contained 34 questions, available in Spanish and English. Calyx Institute sought to provide insights about people’s attitudes towards digital privacy and security, identify their awareness of protection and protective behavior, and explore internet users’ knowledge and concerns related to digital privacy and security.

  • Maya Ninova (@may4ka) is a researcher and consultant with broad international research and mentoring experience in transdisciplinary and multicultural teams, coupled with a PhD in Social Psychology. She is passionate about people and technologies, and she has been researching the interaction between them for the last 10 years. Maya is interested in how people appropriate and interpret technologies, what is the impact of technology in people’s lives and society, and how can technology improve human experiences. She has special interest in the evolution of the Techno-Anthropology field, understood as a study of the relationship between humans and digital-era technologies not only on interaction level but also its implications for Design and Innovation of technological systems and practices.
  • Nicholas Merrill (@nickcalyx) is the founder and Executive Director of The Calyx Institute. Prior to this, he founded Calyx Internet Access Corporation, one of the first commercial Internet service providers operating in New York City. In 2004, after receiving a demand for information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Nick became the first party to ever challenge the constitutionality of the National Security Letters provision of the USA PATRIOT Act. In 2010, after winning a partial release from the gag order, Nick started The Calyx Institute – a non-profit organization whose goal is to reform the telecommunications industry with regard to privacy and freedom of expression. He is a recipient of the ACLU’s Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee’s Patriot Award.

Notes

Today we have really cool guests from the Calyx Institute, they are sharing a very interesting survey they made: Digital Privacy And Security Survey 2021. They are Nick (nickcalyx), Mayka (may4ka) and catie (retro_catt)

Calyx Institute is a research and educational non-profit organization (NGO). They started back in 2010. The way they describe themselves in short is: "Our mission is to educate the public about privacy in digital communications and to develop tools that anyone can use. By embracing "privacy by design," they help make digital security and privacy more accessible to everyone". They are largely (95%+) funded by their members, with a few grants here and there. They do still have the awesome modems with unlimited internet, which they give out to donors at certain levels. Unfortunately they only work in the US. Now they have 5G ones in addition to 4G.

In the US there are lots of areas that don't have internet via cables or fiber optics. So the only choice is to get online via the cellular network. We ended up with this strange arrangement which is only available to educational non-profits where we have access to mobile data plans that have no limits. So many of our members use these devices to get online in those rural areas.

Could you share some of the main findings of this?

  • ​​This was the first survey about Digital Privacy and Security conducted by the Calyx Institute. A total of 1146 individuals responded to it.
  • We were aiming to understand people's attitudes towards digital security and privacy, their awareness of protection and protective behavior and to explore their knowledge and concerns related to digital privacy and security, in a nutshell these were our goals.
  • Another of our projects is a mobile operating system called CalyxOS. It's based on Android. Maybe not everybody knows that there is something called the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) led by Google where they release the source code for most of Android. So people can build their own derivative projects based on it. We decided to take that source code and take out the parts that spy on you and report back to Google, and instead build in privacy tools like Signal and Tor Project.

You found out that there’s a relevant and increasing concern about digital privacy. Is this the first time you do this survey?

  • Some key findings are that the majority of respondents report being concerned about their privacy and security, with some gender differences with men being more concerned that women. The biggest threat to their privacy and security is social media and tech companies, but also law enforcement for example.
  • Also interesting is that more than half say they know how information is shared by their phones but at the same time also almost the half are unsure whether they have suffered security breaches on their phones.

Could you share some of the findings in relation to CalyxOS?

  • Part of the idea of CalyxOS is based on the idea that people want more privacy but there are so many ways people try to get it, and it's super confusing because there are too many things to learn and nobody has time, especially activists and people in risk groups. So we wanted to make something where if you just use it for your mobile phone operating system, you are already doing better. And we wanted to be informed by what people want and need and what they are doing now to protect themselves. That's where Maya's research came in.
  • The majority of Calyx users (almost 400 participants) who took part in the study are male and located mainly in Europe and North America, we didn't ask for specific countries though. Also a big portion of them belong to the IT sector and are rather young and educated.
  • We cannot draw conclusions of course for the broader population because the survey used non-random sampling, but there were some differences when comparing results by OS and gender.

Would you say that this is the profile of the users of Calyx’ services?

  • From the overall research we conducted last years I would say yes.
  • The first study we did was a diary study with Calyx users that we recruited via our Reddit community and then I conducted for a separate project one-on-one interviews, and If I recall correctly now may be one or two women participated. Then with the survey we got a bigger sample, so I would say yes this is the profile.
  • The reddit community is pretty strong, people. are very engaged. Actually another interesting fact from the. survey is that calyx users value a lot the community support they get. from the team, and the reddit is one of the channels.

Were there any findings that really surprised you?

  • One thing that surprised Catie was that people expect civic society organizations to play a big role in raising awareness about digital privacy and security, along with governmental institutions.
  • May4ka sees this as a very good opportunity for the third sector to work more in this direction, more outreach and education, because obviously people have trust in the third sector.
  • At almost 50% stated they would consider engaging in activism to push law and policies towards data protection and prevention of abuse.
  • Nick was surprised that the people were so heavily US and EU based, but it also makes sense because CalyxOS was until recently only supported on Google Pixel phones and they are only sold in 12 countries mainly in the US and EU. We have worked more on supporting phones that people can actually get in other countries such as the Xiaomi Mi A2. And just recently we started supporting OnePlus phones and Fairphones so that should expand people's access to phones that can run our software.

Does calyx(os) have a goal for the community it’ll reach? Is it “for” techie redditor types in us/europe or is it e.g. particularly designed for at risk groups in the global south (not that there’s no overlap there)

  • Calyx wants to cater to at-risk groups in the global south, activists, human rights workers, journalists and one of the first steps is adding support for phones that are actually available in the global south.
  • They also did research with at risk groups, actually the survey questions were designed based on qualitative research conducted with people working in risk environments. They did 23 interviews with people from 14 countries, between professionals and orgs supporting people at-risk.
  • The reason they started with the google pixels is because they are the phones that the android open source project is designed on, so they "just work", but Calyx have invested a lot of time and research figuring out which phones have the best global distribution/availability that we can work with

Is there anything the digital rights community could do to support your projects?

  • If you're interested in using CalyxOS, you can download and install it for free (or start a membership with us that includes a CalyxOS Pixel sent straight to you) you can find out more here
  • Speaking of the community, we have a chat room on the Matrix chat network which currently has around 5,200 people in it, where we help people install CalyxOS and figure out ways to use it, and unscientifically speaking more and more people identifying as female keep becoming part of the community. Come by and ask some questions and say hi, we try to be welcoming.
  • But here is the link to the full. report: https://calyxinstitute.org/news/2021/digital-privacy-and-security-survey-2021
  • You can learn more about the memberships that make CalyxOS possible here. If you want to support CalyxOS and all the other digital services we provide for free to everyone online but aren't ready for a CalyxOS phone, there's a Friend of Calyx option that includes a whole bunch of cool Calyx swag to show your support!