Privacy at the Margins| Concerns, Skills, and Activities: Multilayered Privacy Issues in Disadvantaged Urban Communities

Xiaoqian Li, Wenhong Chen, Joseph D. Straubhaar


Little attention has been given to how members of economically, socially, and digitally disadvantaged groups experience privacy. Using a door-to-door paper-and-pencil household census of public housing communities in a major American city, this study examined three layers of digital privacy experiences among public housing residents—privacy concerns, privacy skills, and privacy-compromising activities. Results showed that privacy concerns are one of the major reasons that hinder residents from adopting the Internet. Regression analysis revealed significant gaps in digital privacy skills among residents by generation and by having private Internet access or not. Moreover, higher levels of privacy skills and relatively private Internet access contribute to more frequent engagement in digital activities that can compromise privacy. This research provides valuable insights on how privacy concerns and skills affect digital inclusion in a marginalized population.


privacy, privacy concern, privacy skill, digital divide, digital inequality, Internet, low income, disadvantaged

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