Defining policies for digital rights

We’ve been working with Consumers International to create a toolkit for consumer rights policymaking in the digital age. It’s been published today to mark World Consumer Rights Day, which focuses this year on building a digital world consumers can trust.

Digital rights are a global issue

In India, the government and a law school have set up an online platform for resolving consumer disputes. There’s a law in California that requires websites to allow people under 18 years old to permanently delete things they post. Brazilian legislation protects promotes digital competition through net neutrality laws.

Policy interventions like these exist all over the world. They’re one of the main mechanisms governments have for bringing about change. We’ve brought together as many as we can find to show what approaches are possible, and find out what kind of trends are emerging.

Today I’m in Berlin for a summit with consumer advocacy organisations from G20 countries to hear about their approaches and talk about what needs to happen next.

We think a resource like this could become a useful tool for policy makers, both to understand options, but also to collaboratively map and categorise the fast changing field of digital consumer rights.

Forbrukerradet
Last year, the main Norwegian consumer rights group read out the entirety of terms and conditions of popular apps. (Photo: Forbrukerrådet)

A holistic approach to digital rights

The main thing that jumped out at us is that it is impossible to put most interventions in a single category. Issues like requiring the reporting of data breaches cut across data protection, disclosure, personal data, privacy, regulation, security, and transparency.

It’s also helped us see what’s missing. For instance, there aren’t good examples for policies that address the blur between consumer rights and labour rights exploited by platforms like Uber. Nor are there effectively policies for educating and protecting consumers from the proliferation of Reciprocal Data Applications.

This is the beginning of something that will be updated over time. You can send feedback on the toolkit to Liz Coll at Consumers International.

Making digital rights a mainstream issue

It’s been a year since Sarah wrote about the future of consumer advocacy. That blog post kicked off a research project with Near Now. That in turn led to a collaboration with CHOICE exploring the kind of products and services consumer advocacy organisations could build to connect with members.

This report is the other side of that equation. As people start getting tools that help them understand and argue for stronger digital rights, policy makers need tools that help them see what’s possible.

See all the policy interventions on the Consumers International website.