UMD professor and alum document sex workers’ cybersecurity experiences

By: Angel Gingras
For The Diamondback

When Dr. Elissa Redmiles began her doctorate program at the University of Maryland, she never imagined it would lead her to study the privacy practices of those who work in the sex industry.

A three-time graduate of the university, she concentrated her computer science degree in privacy and security concerns.

“I’ve always been interested in this community because of the kind of intersection of feminized labor with stigma [and] legality,” Redmiles said. “This seemed like a group that is actually quite large, but hasn’t gotten a lot of attention at all, particularly in the computing community, despite the influence of internet technology on sex work.”

For her dissertation, Redmiles chose to study the quality and inequity of security education among different fields of work. As she developed her research, she began to realize the privacy risks that are associated with people who work in the sex industry and turned it into a side project.

A report that Redmiles co-authored with several other researchers titled “‘It’s stressful having all these phones’: Investigating Sex Workers’ Safety Goals, Risks, and Practices Online,” received a distinguished paper award at the USENIX Security Symposium in August.

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