A couple of weeks ago, I took some time to get stuck into The Digital Standard, a new project from Consumer Reports, Disconnect, Ranking Digital Rights, and The Cyber Independent Testing Lab.
Yesterday, Richard wrote about the need for new global infrastructure to support consumer rights. I’m particularly interested in tracking exploits, because they break the products we use in ways we can't notice. They affect the security of our data and our privacy. I think this harms our digital rights.
One of the things that struck me at the G20 Consumers conference last month was that there is a big opportunity to build a shared, global infrastructure. This could be a huge support to consumers who own digital products and to the consumer rights organisations that help protect them. In the UK, Brexit means that this should now become a priority.
On Tuesday evening we hosted the first Trust & Design meetup at Somerset House. Trust & Design is the name we picked for the events Richard wrote about in February: we want to help people think about privacy throughout the design process, and ultimately build some tools that will help with that.
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.
In our first year we helped the Co-op prototype services that give members control of data, investigated what the GDPR could mean for services we use, prototyped new consumer technology and more. We’re well into our second year now. We’re a bigger team than ever before and we’re working on bigger projects. So we’re hiring for two new positions at IF, a developer and a delivery manager.
I saw this Tweet over the weekend, and it struck a chord with me. It’s something I’m very familiar from at IF: someone losing access to a service because they didn’t download their backup codes for 2FA. I don’t blame them — it’s often not clear that you need to download your backup codes. Setting up 2FA can be a technical exercise and backup codes are the last part of that process, easy to miss.
A CHOICE member asked us whether their internet connection is really slower on evenings and weekends. We made a design sketch that shows whether that's true or not.
As Georgina wrote finding out how technology can improve care for people in end of life care is a complicated area. It brings together lots of different people and parts of the health service. So the improving care project wasn’t about trying to find solutions. It was about uncovering the user needs of patients, carers and clinicians for healthcare data and finding out what should happen to meet those needs. A large part of my time was spent finding the security, privacy and consent implications of better access to healthcare data.
Earlier this year we worked with Doteveryone and BuckleyWilliams to investigate how technology can improve care for older people with life-limiting conditions. The report goes into more detail about our recommendations. I wanted to talk more about what working with patients in the last phase of life was like and how that helped us develop some of those recommendations.
Hidden in the Wi-Fi settings on my laptop is a list of all the Wi-Fi networks I’ve ever connected to. Quickly scrolling through, you can start to get a sense of how many different public Wi-Fi providers there are. There’s names like BT, The Cloud and Boingo that stick out. Each will have their own terms and conditions, likely hastily agreed to while I’ve sat in the various places that public Wi-Fi is available in London.
We’re increasingly surrounded by things that connect to the Internet, from the smartphone that sits in my pocket to the PlayStation in my living room. But I regularly find myself unsure about what these products are doing, whether they’re up to date, secure or working as they should. Even appliances like fridges, boilers and washing machines are becoming more connected and complicated, expanding the list of products I have to secure and maintain.
Earlier this week, Phil introduced our thinking around our new, emerging digital rights. We made some prototypes that show the possibilities new legislation will create for people that design products and services, to evoke a response to the new rules that goes beyond just complying with them. One of my favourites, is home privacy settings.
Our digital rights are changing. In May 2018 the European Parliament will introduce the General Data Protection Regulation. The GDPR aims to improve how services handle our data online. With these new rights come new opportunities, which is why we’ve published a collection of prototypes and product sketches responding to them.
Our homes and cities are becoming increasingly connected, by 2017 there will be free public Wi-Fi hotspots on London streets and by 2020 every house in the UK will have a smart meter. We’re working on a research project with Meredith Whittaker at Google Open Research to understand how these new technologies change our rights, and what the security and privacy implications of those changes are.
A few weeks ago I was invited by the Scrutiny Unit of Parliament to give evidence on Part 5 of the Digital Economy Bill, a section that addresses digital government. Yesterday afternoon I gave my evidence to the Committee. You can watch the video on parliament.tv, it’s at 15:50. I wanted to publish some of the notes I took in to the session, partly because it’s good to be transparent, and partly because there wasn’t really the time to unpick the implications of some of this in the time we had.
Consumer advocacy organisations need to adapt so they can deal with the problems arising from a new generation of connected technology. The work Sarah, Georgina and I shared over the last few weeks suggests some ways that could work. But to understand why it’s so important they adapt it’s useful to look at their role in the past.
As we were working on The Log, a design probe from our project on the future of consumer advocacy, I kept coming back to Nick Foster’s talk on The Future Mundane. It’s a talk about industrial design futures and how not to do them. There are a few things from the talk that particularly stick out to me, so I thought I’d write about how they influenced what we made.
As part of our work exploring the future of consumer advocacy, we’ve been thinking about how we build trust with the things we buy. This is becoming more important as our old models for understanding quality and functionality of things get increasingly out of date.