Keeping Secrets Online

Keeping Secrets Online synthesises new knowledge that will be useful to those who support people keeping secrets legitimately as part of their job, and will enhance the UK’s capacity to detect and mitigate threats generated via online channels. Online secret-keeping offers a rich seam of inquiry: the lack of non-verbal signals in this environment is known to be used strategically for effective deceit.

The project will draw together a wealth of research carried out into how people keep secrets online, what helps them to keep those secrets, what acts as barriers, and how these vary based on age, gender and culture. This research will be sourced from disciplines as diverse as Human-Computer Interaction, Gender Studies, Cyber Psychology, Health and Crime. It will use three example scenarios in understanding how people keep secrets online: buying and using illegal drugs, escaping from intimate partner violence, and having an illicit affair. Each of these has quite different goals and associated activities, and will help us to uncover a diverse range of strategies for keeping secrets online.

This research will be distilled into an ‘Illustrated Guide to Keeping Secrets Online’ that summarises the findings in an easy-to-read format, made up of narratives supported by illustrations, research insights and potential real-world applications for stakeholders. The Guide will be useful to stimulate discussion, and to generate further knowledge on how the strategies, barriers and enablers uncovered by our research can be applied to people who need to keep secrets as part of their jobs in countering UK and international security threats.