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Human Rights Online

Following on rights-related work we did in Myanmar in 2017, September-November 2019, we undertook work in Sri Lanka to examine the perceptions and experiences of online security among marginalized communities. Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews were conducted among roughly 220 male and female respondents from urban and rural areas; as well as from the LGBTQI community in the Western, Northern and Central provinces.

The range of awareness of and responses to privacy and security violations was wide. Particularly in Jaffna, where conditions of war had restricted access to and use of ICTs, internet and social media until recently, we saw a parallel with what we’d seen in Myanmar two years before – people were getting online for the first time on smartphones.

Generation Z (born after 1995) internet users in Sri Lanka find it easier to make use of the internet than Generations X (born between 1965 – to 1980) and Y (born between 1981 – 1995) internet users. Generation X and Y females progress the slowest, while males in the same Generation are somewhat better.

User perception of the internet depends on access devices (desktop, laptop, tab or smartphone), time of day they access and social media use. Different social media apps have unique value propositions for users; for example, the location-based search functions of Grindr are a common example which enables users to find people nearby from the LGBTQI community. Internet user behaviors can be segmented based on age, gender and sexual orientation of the users.

Awareness and understanding of the concepts of privacy and security of personal data is needed across all age groups; internet users need to be made aware of the implications of platforms, companies, governments etc. collecting data on them, in order to make informed choices in relation to their internet use. Most privacy notices are too long and written in legalese that make little sense to most internet users. The lack of understanding is exacerbated when users are non-English speakers.