Sameer Patil, an assistant professor at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, has been selected to receive support from Indiana University’s Racial Justice Research Fund to expand cybersecurity research to identify the specific privacy needs of Muslim and African American populations in the United States.
Patil’s proposal, “Surfacing Lived Privacy Experiences of Muslims and African Americans in the United States,” will use a sociotechnical approach to investigate technology-related privacy needs and practices of underrepresented minorities—specifically, Muslims and African Americans, who often face disproportionate amounts of online harassment and harm that increasingly includes misinformation targeting these communities. The goal is to enhance the privacy protection and physical and digital safety for individuals from these minority communities.
“I come from a family committed to creating a more equitable society,” Patil said. “It is an honor to receive this award, which will enable me to engage in research that contributes to this goal and allow me to uphold that legacy.”
The Racial Justice Research Fund supports research that will help better equip individuals, institutions, and communities to advance racial justice and equity. The Racial Justice Research Fund also provides an opportunity for funded researchers to work with the university’s Foundation Relations, Business Partnerships, and Research Development teams to help secure any necessary external funding for race-related research. The fund was created in 2020 and is supported by IU’s Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs.
Patil and his team will conduct surveys during the spring and summer of 2021.
“By illuminating the lived experiences of these groups, this work could potentially help neutralize existing communal tensions, minimize the risk of future conflict, and reduce chilling effects on freedom of expression, especially on matters of racial justice,” Patil said. “The research results have the potential to inform enhancements to real-world apps and services, thus impacting and empowering millions of Muslims and African Americans to reduce exposure to harassment and harm.”
The project will receive roughly $15,000 in funding.
“Sameer’s research will be critical in helping make a positive, real-world impact on the lives of underrepresented minorities,” said Kay Connelly, associate dean for research at the Luddy School. “The mission of our school is to use technology to improve the world we live in. Gaining an understanding of the challenges faced when it comes to privacy for targeted minorities is a step toward making users safer and more secure.”