Political activism is a worldwide force in geopolitical change and has, historically, helped lead to greater justice, equality, and stopping human rights abuses. A modern revolution---an extreme form of political activism---pits activists, who rely on technology for critical operational tasks, against a resource-rich government that controls the very telecommunications network they must use to operationalize, putting the technology they use under extreme stress. Our work presents insights about activists' technological defense strategies from interviews with 13 political activists who were active during the 2018-2019 Sudanese revolution. We find that politics and society are driving factors of security and privacy behavior and app adoption. Moreover, a social media blockade can trigger a series of anti-censorship approaches at scale, while a complete internet blackout can cripple activists' use of technology. Even though the activists' technological defenses against the threats of surveillance, arrest and physical device seizure were low tech, they were largely sufficient against their adversary. Through these results, we surface key design principles, but we observe that the generalization of design recommendations often runs into fundamental tensions between the security and usability needs of different user groups. Thus, we provide a set of structured questions in an attempt to turn these tensions into opportunities for technology designers and policy makers.
Note the changed time.
Alaa Daffalla recently completed her Masters degree in Computer Science at the University of Kansas. Her interests are broadly in usable security and privacy, in specific she's interested in surfacing the security and privacy practices and behaviors in non-western populations.