Digital privacy a risk for undocumented immigrants

Undocumented immigrants tend to be careful about public life: They limit contact with authorities, keep close-knit circles, and avoid loitering too long in parks, supermarkets, shows and other public gatherings. Some even avoid driving altogether. But when it comes to their smartphones, they struggle to apply this instinctive caution, according to a study by the U-M School of Information (UMSI).

Principal investigator Florian Schaub, assistant professor at UMSI and the College of Engineering, found this struggle “surprising, considering the far greater threat that information disclosures can have on their lives.” He adds, “On the other hand, we know that managing privacy online is quite challenging for everyone, and this appears to hold up, even for communities with heightened risks, such as this one.” The study, “Keeping a Low Profile? Technology, Risk and Privacy among Undocumented Immigrants,”  provides insights into this community’s technology use practices and identifies several reasons why online privacy concerns may not be a priority.

Author: Sheryl James, School of Information

Sheryl is a public relations specialist with the School of Information. You can reach her at