Have you ever actually read the terms and conditions before signing up to a website or ordering something online? These long, wordy documents are a form of consumer protection designed to make sure we are fully informed when we agree to an online contract. They are supposed to ensure we are making a conscious decision to sign up to a service with full knowledge of the consequences.
At the heart of current online consumer protection is the concept of informed consent where by the prospective consumer makes a conscious decision to sign up to a service with full knowledge and consent to the consequences of doing so. Even in the newly signed EU General Data Protection Regulation, which will go into effect in 2018, this will not fundamentally change. For anyone who has ever used a commercial internet service however, and this included policy makers, it is glaringly obvious that there is a fundamental flaw in this approach, namely the assumption that the consumer has a good understanding of the contract that is being entered into.
While exploring the Internet And Human Rights Resources Center at the Internet Society, I encountered a highly informative report from the Global Commission on Internet Governance (CIGI), which was published in January 2016, on the extent to which the management of individuals’ fundamental rights, e.g. privacy and free speech, is in the hands corporations.
The report presents an excellent overview of the various ways in which the dominance of a small set of companies that control the web platforms where most people spend the majority of their time online has produced a situation where these companies have become major actors in determining the state of human rights online.
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” Or would it? In his novel 1984, George Orwell introduces the idea of Newspeak whereby the Ministry of Truth reshapes language in order to make it impossible people to express, and hence think, concepts that go against the Party.
Young people are a highly vulnerable group on social media. Current research (summarised here https://www.nspcc.org.uk/services-and-resources/research-and-resources/2015/how-safe-are-our-children-2015/ ) suggests that 1 in 3 have been victims of cyber bullying and 1 in 4 have experienced something upsetting on a social media site. The ‘Digital Wildfire’ project (www.digitalwildfire.org) explores the spread of provocative and antagonistic content on social media and seeks to identify opportunities for the responsible governance of digital social spaces. As part of this we have spent time engaging with young people and school teachers to find out their views on social media and the harms it can cause.
In celebration of Data Protection Day (also known as Data Privacy Day), please join us for the launch of our #AnalyzeMyData campaign on Twitter. Through this campaign we hope to increase public awareness of the ways in which data is used/misused and establish an evidence base of public opinion on these issues that can be used to support future policy discussions around improved guidelines and regulations for data access consent.
As this is the first of our blog post for 2016 I thought I’d start off by wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2016. Looking back, 2015 was a busy year for CaSMa. Judging from our timeline we had about 29 (probably more) events last year ranging from academic conferences and workshops, to public events like the Web We Want festival, youth focused events in collaboration with iRights, Continuous Professional Development (CPD) workshops for SMEs, and even a stand-up comedy routine as part of the Nesta Future Fest fringe. In between these events we were busy collecting data through interviews, questionnaires, surveys and the study of policy documents. So what is in store for 2016?
One of the much vaunted features of the IPB by the Home Secretary is the so called ‘double lock’ provided by the requirement that the Judicial Commissioner has to sign off on any warrant in order for it to take effect. So what do we know about the position of the Judicial Commissioner, and how they will be appointed?
The draft Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) is a proposed new law on surveillance that was presented to parliament in November 2015. The bill is currently before the Joint Committee (i.e. both Houses of Parliament) which is investigating the content of the bill and will report its recommendations to the Houses in February 2016. The first step of the procedure having been a call for written evidence, which had to be submitted by 21 December 2015, as well as public hearings in November, December 2015 and January 2016. Since the IPB has obvious implications for privacy and digital rights, I decided to take a closer look at the Bill (despite it being 299 pages long).