Over a century ago, the U.S. Congress sanctioned the 19th Amendment (Amendment XIX), which prohibits the states and federal governments to discriminate and deny the right to vote to U.S. citizens on account of gender/ sex. The success of the women’s suffrage movement is considered a milestone in western feminism. The beginning of the 20th century witnessed a turning point – women emerged from homebound duties to wage-earning members in the society. These women belonged to all strata – daughters of immigrants and diverse ethnicities. And this is where Cyber Collective (CyCo) steps in. CyCo smashes patriarchal stereotypes and makes a distinguished statement in the world of information technology and cybersecurity.
By Pooja Tikekar, Feature Writer, CISO MAG
Founded by Tazin Khan Norelius, Cyber Collective is the first and only women of color-owned data ethics, privacy, and cybersecurity research organization. CyCo’s strength lies in research, security awareness, privacy advocation, and data ethics consulting. Given the advancement of tools and systems used for the convenience of end-users, the company firmly believes in engaging in an open dialogue on the modern-day cyber landscape. It explores and analyzes the mechanisms that influence human-technology interactions. Today, engineers, data scientists, and infosec leaders, often find themselves in situations in which they use digital datasets that are collected or shared without informed consent, or those that are impacted by implicit biases. To address this inherent conflict between personal ethics and business goals, CyCo works directly with the community to educate and gather data transparently with an aim of creating a future where technology — though neutral — is overwhelmingly a force for good — for all.
CyCo uses the grounded theory approach in its creative, qualitative research, and then further uses the information to center marginalized folks — those who have historically been pushed to the margins by decision-makers in tech product and policy development — in conversations to impact the next generation of tech product and policy.
Integrating Pop Culture in Learning
Popular culture is an intrinsic element of our social and political lives. CyCo recognizes the value of pop culture in promoting digital literacy and building conversations around technical topics that impact our daily lives, including the impact of technology and how it shapes social dynamics. Using appealing memes, movie references, and unfiltered yet friendly language, the company educates the public and connects with a wider audience through virtual events on Zoom. Through creative and live audience research events, CyCo assesses their knowledge and gathers real-time insights to share workable findings that influence policy and industry. It also caters to its Instagram and Twitter following for social media outreach.
IFundWomen: By the People, For the People
The largest cybersecurity budgets belong mostly to Fortune 500 companies, further confirming that revenue generation or monetization strategies for startups around data privacy research are thinning. Through its IFundWomen Crowdfunding Campaign, CyCo intends to raise financial capital to foster research and bring awareness on the impact of technology on human lives.
Data Rights are Human Rights
Since the U.S. has no single federal law that regulates cybersecurity or data privacy, SMBs and marginalized communities encounter multiple challenges in the way data is consumed. Taking this concern into consideration, CyCo partnered with IT service provider Elroi and non-profit organization, The Markup. Collectively, they launched a new petition to demand the U.S. government to start working on a new national privacy law, to ensure the data protection of marginalized communities that big techs capitalize on. The company’s goal is to:
- Create diverse and public subcommittees as part of the regulation drafting.
- Seek an annual review of regulation compared to current technology advancements and interpretations.
To make its petition actionable, CyCo hosted a virtual event on January 28, 2021 – National Privacy Day. The event was graced by Rachel Cash, CEO and Founder of Elroi; Nabiha Syed, President of The Markup; and Brittany Kaiser, Co-Founder at Own Your Data Foundation and Cambridge Analytica whistleblower.
From February 1 to March 30, 2021, CyCo will continue to host webinars, workshops, and seminars to collect information that helps identify the gaps in our systems. It will also investigate tech’s impact on people who have historically been pushed to the margins by decision-makers in tech and policy.
No industry, program, or topic can truly grow if it remains within the parameters of its comfort. It’s 2021, we should all know by now why we “need more women in cybersecurity,” if you don’t, well shame on you. But the women are here, and we’re making space for ourselves. The change is inevitable, it’s just up to us to make it. Be the change you want to see, or watch things stay the same. At Cyber Collective, we are the change and we’re bringing everyone with us,” says Founder & CEO Tazin Khan Norelius.
S N A P S H O T
|Founder & CEO||Tazin Khan Norelius
|Team Members||Vanessa Miranda (Head of Engagement)
Caroline HSU (Head of Ethics)
Fara Islam (Manager, Creative Research & Development)
Rebecca Richard (Manager, Creative Research & Development)
|Partners/Consulting Partners||UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry|
|Social Media Handles||LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/cybercollectiveorg
|Location(s)||Remote organization but based in NYC|
|Core Strength||Qualitative Research|
|USP||Ethical technologists looking to build equitable tech need ethically-sourced data sets + focus groups to provide feedback and participate in beta testing.|
About the Author
Pooja Tikekar is a Feature Writer and part of the editorial team at CISO MAG. She writes news reports and feature articles on cybersecurity technologies and trends.