2.3.5 Privacy and security concerns

Women may require extra privacy to feel comfortable using ICTs; in a conservative society, this might mean a women-only space. Women and girls should be able to have their own email accounts and be able to freely access information without surveillance, while having access to secure online spaces free of harassment and exploitation.

Women need to be made aware of the ”etiquette” of using the Internet, as well as the potential risks from ”scammers,” software viruses and other related downsides of internet use. They will need basic protection from cyber-crime. As technology evolves, so does cyber-crime. Cyber-offences can take many different forms, such as stealing personal information, exploiting the sale of innocent victims (as in the sex trade), and attacks on personal safety. Women and girls must be educated to understand the risks involved and how to mitigate harm. For example, passwords for email access should not be stored on a public computer, and users need to log out of their email accounts before leaving the public computer. This kind of training should be part of any digital literacy course.

The ITU has a set of on-line Child Online Protection Guidelines18 in six languages, identifying risks that children may face online and behaviours recommended for children to stay safe online. PLAN Canada19 also sets out child protection online safety rules for adolescent girls:

Content example: PLAN Canada’s safety rules for adolescent girls
  • No personal details like your address or school
  • Don’t send pictures
  • Don’t hand out your password
  • Never arrange to meet anyone in person
  • Never hang around in a chat room if someone says or writes something that makes you uncomfortable or worried
  • Never respond to nasty, suggestive or rude emails
  • Never believe junk or spam email
  • Don’t open files from people you don’t know
  • Always report when you see bad language or distasteful pictures
  • Always be yourself
  • What is posted online becomes public and cannot always be removed. Don’t post about friends, family and teachers
  •  If someone keeps trying to talk to you, press you for information or threaten you, tell someone you trust and get help.