There is a new report from Consumer Focus entitled “All that’s digital isn’t gold – The challenges and risks of the digital age” (PDF, 40 pages, 732 Kb). It is written by Lucy Fowler but based on research by Ctrl-Shift. The Ctrl-Shift report is “Defining and defending consumer interests in the digital age” – PDF, 54 pages, 802 Kb and was written by Claire Hopkins, Alan Mitchell and Paul Smith. I have to admit being privy to an early draft of the Ctrl-Shift in January 2012 and providing some feedback upon it at the time (amongst many others).
It’s a nice change to see a report reporting the drawbacks to going digital when we have had government for the last fifteen years screaming for ‘digital by default’ and it may be useful for those involved to consider this work whenever compiling a risk register for future projects.
Although starting from a precept that the Internet is a ‘good thing’ for consumers, the report then considers some of the drawbacks such as data ownership and data loss, along with the “mixed-blessing” of the likes of Google frigging your search results. Page 11 importantly states “Control of personal data is therefore set to become one of the major consumer issues of the current decade and of the digital economy”, which the consumers at large will be completely unaware of, and as page 13 relates with the growing using of smart mobiles “We are seeing very little scrutiny or regulation of these new geo-location data streams, and very little understanding of the unintended consequences of their collection, analysis or use by corporations or parties with malicious intent”, which is definitely a case of ‘buyer be aware’!
Whilst this report couldn’t cover all the issues raised in the Ctrl-Shift one, and that had to sideline some of the issues raised, it does warn of many of the dangers involved in dragging consumers into being ‘digital by default’ when a host of social and legal problems have yet to be resolved. I suspect the UK legal system will never catch up with the rapid advance of technology, but consumers need to be trained to protect their backs as was suggested by Jessie Daniels regarding US school IT education (see Digital entitlement).