Newspapers nowadays almost daily report on security breaches, compromised personal information, and cybercriminal activities, and no country is immune from cyberattacks (Symantec Report, 2019), and it is thus no wonder that governments across the globe heavily invest in cybersecurity defence mechanisms as well as cybersecurity research to protect critical infrastructure as well as their citizens’ privacy. On the one hand, the challenge is how technological systems can be designed in a way that any data that is stored by users onto the platforms cannot easily fall into the hands of cybercriminals. On the other hand, a case could be made that the protection of privacy is also the duty of each individual user of technological systems and hence, awareness needs to be raised for risks of data protection infringement and associated informed decision-making.
This awareness raising needs to go beyond a one-size-fits-all approach – it needs to be adapted to user groups. Given the increasingly young population in Pakistan with a mean age of 22.8 years (World Population Review, 2019), the group of children and young adults is particularly vulnerable as easy-to-use digital technologies have enabled many youngsters and children to be exposed to cybersecurity and privacy challenges that they might not be aware of or incapable of understanding. Yet, this is not solely a challenge for Pakistan, but also for countries in the Global North, such as Germany. A second important group are Muslim women as research (e.g., Mustafa et al., 2020) has shown that their cybersecurity and privacy concerns substantially differ from non-Muslims and men, with Muslim women also constituting an important migrant group in Germany.
Given the strong role of individual privacy concerns for individual data protection, it is interesting to note that researchers perceive the understanding of privacy as a concept to be widely absent in Pakistan, much of which is owed to the cultural impact of how and who is deemed worthy of allowing the space to retain their privacy (DRF Pakistan, 2021). At the same time, studies show that such privacy concerns are very common in the Global North (e.g., Cecere et al., 2015). Similarly, there seem to be great differences in terms of gender, generational, and cultural differences that have not been fully explored yet (Sambasivan et al., 2018) and where the world would benefit from such more research on underrepresented user groups. Understanding these differences does not only require much technological knowledge from the field of computer science but also social science knowledge for assessing the particular motivations and cognitions of these user groups, thus necessitating an interdisciplinary approach.
Therefore, in this project aims to create a long-term research collaboration between the chair of industrial and organisational psychology at Saarland University and Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Trough working in another Erasmus+ project the two institutions have already identified a great overlap in research interests in the area of data protection infringement, that they would like to follow up upon. Therefore, the goal of this DAAD project is to cross-culturally study the online privacy concerns in Pakistan and Germany, and to this purpose, capacity needs to be built in Pakistan for social science skills needed in IT security and privacy research by providing training in qualitative and quantitative research methods to assure data quality, uplift the skills in academic writing to assure that the conducted research is publishable in high impact journals and conferences of the field, and enable prolonged research visits for expanding on the German-Pakistani exchange.
At the end of the project, project members will have conducted joint studies on privacy concerns of children, young adults, and women and submitted first findings as manuscripts for publication in high impact journals and conferences. Furthermore, the project partners will have conducted joint trainings and exchanged staff members to achieve a better understanding of privacy concerns in Pakistan and Germany and created an outlook for joint German-Pakistani research projects beyond the scope of this project. Ideally, the research conducted in this project lays the ground for evidence-based interventions for cybersecurity awareness and privacy that can be designed in the future and rolled out and evaluated.