The role of the private sector in combatting gendered cyber harms

Think tank: Chatham House

Author(s): Isabella Wilkinson; Julia-Silvana Hofstetter; Dr James Shires; Mardiya Siba Yahaya

June 3, 2024

This report from UK think tank Chatham House looks at how private sector technologies can both endanger and advance gender-transformative cybersecurity.

Technologies developed by the private sector play a crucial part in generating, enabling and mitigating gendered cyber harms. They incorporate explicit and implicit gendered structures, ideals and assumptions, which are then propagated and reinforced – even if inadvertently – as technologies are widely adopted.

Although states and public sector actors bear responsibility for enabling and encouraging governance that elevates human security – for people of all genders – to the same level as national or international security, private sector actors also bear significant responsibilities as designers, developers and deployers of technology. Those actors must therefore account for gendered impacts in their work and do all they can to help advance gender equality.

This research paper presents a series of case studies showing the real-world effects of gendered cyber harms, and the private sector’s role in both enabling and countering such harms. The case studies cover a wide range of effects, including the experiences of queer social media users in Africa, the commercialization and ‘weaponization’ of sensitive data and the use of private sector technologies to improve cybersecurity and combat gender-based violence.

The paper concludes with a set of recommendations for private sector stakeholders seeking to design and deploy secure and gender-transformative technologies.