Constructing threats and modeling security in a data risk society

Becky Kazansky | University of Amsterdam | Constructing threats and modeling security in a data risk society | Supervisors: Stefania Milan & Richard Rogers | 2015-2019

Information security problems are said to be ‘wicked’ due to their sociotechnical complexity. In recent years, governmental security actors, open source developers of security and privacy enhancing technologies, and human rights defenders have all played a part in developing a dialogical practice to help mitigate against information security ‘threats’. This practice is referred to as ‘threat modelling’. ‘Threat models,’ as textual and diological instruments, serve to articulate the specifications which these actors believe would enable Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to protect information transmitted by their ‘end-users’. Through a focus on the decisions that guide the creation of threat models, this project would endeavour to trace how agendas, values, anxieties, and constructs around risk and security reassert themselves in the development of privacy enhancing technologies. This study would provide a rare empirical contribution to theory-driven critical security scholarship, while also opening up new ways of understanding privacy and security in relation to human rights. The research would be done following a mixed method approach, with ethnographic methods such as semi-structured interviewing and observation work, content analysis of secondary source documents, and digital methods to ‘trace’ changes to tool architecture.