While most of us recognize the inherent vulnerabilities of putting our personal information online, we may not think about how marginalized communities are at even greater risk of malicious attacks on the internet. The LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) community certainly understands the ramifications of sharing their lifestyles on the web, and it is of vital importance to consider how compromised online privacy can specifically impact these already vulnerable groups.
To understand the privacy risks for LGBTQIA individuals, consider how we all use the internet and create digital footprints. Here are some statistics from LGBT Tech , The Trevor Project , and a study released by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) .
- 81% of LGBTQIA youth have searched for health information online, as compared to 46% of non-LGBTQIA youth.
- 62% of LGBTQIA youth have used the internet to connect with other members of the community in the last year.
- More than 1 in 10 said they had first disclosed their LGBTQIA identity to someone online.
- 1 in 4 youth said they are more out online than in person.
- 42% of youth in this community have been bullied online versus 15% of the general public.
- 27% of LGBTQIA members report not feeling safe online.
- LGBTQIA youth are almost 5 times as likely to attempt suicide from harassment and isolation compared to heterosexual youth.
The internet can be a scary place for members of the LGBTQIA community, but it is often also a lifeline. LGBT-identifying adults often need to find resources and places that will be welcoming and supportive, and mobile devices play a vital role in their day today. For many individuals who are not yet comfortable revealing their sexual identity at home or in their communities, the internet is often the first tentative step for seeking both information and community belonging.
However, when privacy is breached, intentionally or unintentionally, for vulnerable populations, consequences can be catastrophic including loss of employment, damaged familial relationships or friendships, and even threats of physical harm or death.
Back in 2013, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) launched a collaboration with the LGBT Technology Partnership to highlight safety issues and increase focus on vulnerable populations. They created a sheet of specific tips and tricks for the LGBTQIA community for staying safe online based on the slogan STOP. THINK. CONNECT. which can be found here . Many of these tips are helpful for everyone looking to stay safe online, but when reviewing them, you can see just how cautious members of this population need to be in order to feel safe.
Ensuring that every person has equal rights and access to online safety is of the utmost importance. While many walk through life taking precautions to ensure their data is protected, we must be aware of how certain communities are at more risk than others and strive to practice our own safe behavior online so as not to put anyone else’s lives at risk.
We wish members of the LGBTQIA community a cyber safe Pride Month and risk-free access to the resources they need.