Making the digital world a better place

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Lindsey Tulloch’s passion for computer science began when a close friend convinced her to install Linux on her desktop instead of Windows. “That’s certainly what got the ball rolling in my software development journey,” she recalled. “I’ve always been a problem solver—I enjoy the aspect of working through something and figuring it out on my own.” 

It wasn’t just Tulloch’s interest in computing that brought her to Waterloo’s Master of Mathematics (MMath) in Computer Science program in 2019. The prospect of building expertise at the intersection of human rights and digital privacy also motivated her to take the plunge. “I believe that global access to a free and open Internet, free from surveillance and censorship, is an important part of fulfilling the human right to privacy,” she explained. “When I first visited the CrySP lab, I encountered research that directly applied to my field of interest and emphasized protecting marginalized communities.” 

Before landing in Waterloo, Tulloch’s drive to make the world a better place took her around the globe, from supporting community development initiatives in Honduras to training teachers in Northern Nigeria. When she returned, she was inspired to pursue an undergraduate degree in computer science from Brock University. “My experience abroad definitely shaped my thinking and perspective,” she said. “Human rights violations regarding digital access are still rampant worldwide, and I can’t see myself working somewhere that isn’t aimed at mitigating these issues.” 

As she conducts research in privacy-enhancing technology in the Cryptography, Security, and Privacy (CrySP) lab, Tulloch is acutely aware of ongoing inequities on a global scale. “Many people still take access to the Internet for granted, but access is not freely or fairly distributed around the world,” she stressed. “This creates a huge divide in people’s ability to participate in the global conversation.“ In countries where access is less of a problem, the government can still employ hundreds of thousands of people to censor the Internet or even shut it down in times of crisis, she points out. “These are different issues rooted in the same problem: lack of access to the digital world.” 

With a young family living in Niagara Falls, it hasn’t always been easy for Tulloch to balance family life on the weekend with coursework in Waterloo during the week. “It’s difficult to be involved with typical graduate life on campus while having a child,” she acknowledged, “but the support I’ve received from my classmates and coworkers in the CrySP lab has been incredible. I know that the skills I’m learning here in the cryptography and privacy space will be worth it going forward.” 

As she looks toward graduation, Tulloch stays focused on the mission that brought her to Waterloo in the first place. “Wherever I go, I try to find ways to make things better for people in some tangible way,” she said. “I haven’t discovered my dream role just yet, but as I’m doing something to improve digital access worldwide, I’ll be right where I’m meant to be.”