The Downside of Digital Impacts On Everyone
Telling someone to come off Facebook or Twitter is like telling someone who is getting hate mail and phone calls to seal up their letter box and unplug the phone.
We are a digital society that uses many different methods to communicate with people email, text, Whats app, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, Xbox and the latest, Google periscope. Most people use a combination of the above and more.
The answer isn’t to disconnect from the digital world but to manage risk. The best way to manage those risks is to understand the threats and how to reduce them.
Technology companies are in the business to “sell their product” especially the free ones and to make money. User safety is often an afterthought. Sometimes, it is purposely ignored because the safer the product the less revenue from advertisers.
So whose responsibility is it to make sure products are safe to use or inform users about the potential risks? No one. It is something that has slipped through the net.
There isn’t a specific regulator who has the responsibility to protect consumers. OFCOM’s remit is to manage the use of the public network not the individual users’ experience on the network. The Information Commissioner is the watchdog for data protection. They can help if your personal information is leaked but they don’t address threats from data like your location that is leaked when you use an online service like Facebook or Twitter.
It is left up to the public to understand the products they use the risk and how to figure out how to protect themselves. That quite frankly is unrealistic. It is beyond 99% of users’ ability to understand what is happening with their information and then know what action to take to address it.
That is why the Digital-Trust was formed to help those who are experiencing digital abuse, raise awareness of what can go wrong and create advice on how to deal with it.
And because there is now a digital aspect to almost every crime, they work with other charities who support victims such as Women’s Aid.
Digital-Trust is a service filling a vast black hole of consumer protection. Everyone agrees that this is a vital service for today’s digital world but when it comes to funding, there is stunning silence.
It isn’t over dramatic to say people are being killed by the lack of protection and understanding. In 2009 Gail Hlidi ex-husband traced her through and online account. He waited for her to take the children to school and then stabbed her multiple times. She survived but was left blinded in her left eye. He served a prison sentence and she went into hiding. But when he got out he was able to trace her again.
Since 2009, the ability to trace and spy on people using their digital footprints, products and services has increased at a phenomenal rate. The extent shocks most people including the police.
Government, criminal justice, support agencies and consumers are realising this is a growing and serious problem. More and more police time is dealing with some form of digital issue. Almost all crime now includes a mobile or Internet related evidence.
Our victim support charities simply don’t have the expertise or resources to know how to deal with not only the issue but the volume of incidents.
Everyone is looking for answers that won’t cost them anything or simply waiting hoping someone else will pay for it. Using technology, it is possible to deliver a more effective service at a much lower cost, but not for free.
If the UK is going to focus on the digital economy, if we are going to be a nation of digital users then we need also need to make provisions to help people when it goes wrong.
- An abuser used a spoof text service to make it look like the victim was sending him threats and racist abuse. The victim was arrested. But the officer, who had been on a course by Jennifer Perry CEO of the Digital-Trust was able to proof it was the abuse sending messages to himself. He was sentenced to six and a half years, after he pleaded guilty on two counts of stalking and one of perverting the course of justice
- A victim came home and partner played her a conversation she had. He had used mobile spyware to listen to her conversations.
- A an abuser takes out an ad or goes online to chat rooms or dating sites promising men sex and then sending them to the victim’s home.
- A man with history of domestic violence has restricted access to kids via social service. He gives social service a soft animal with a tracking device to give to his children. He was able to track his ex-wife back to the refugee.
- An abuser text his victim to let her know he liked her new blue night gown she was wearing, he was watching her through her webcam.
- Ex gave a women an expected gift of a computer and new mobile. She took it to be checked it was confirmed it had spyware on it and he could monitor everything on the computer. He had also put spyware on her mobile so he accessed to her location, text and could listen to her via the microphone. She was being monitored 24×7. It is also very common for abusers with children to give them smart phones so they can monitor the ex-partner.
Statistics of crimes against individuals where there is high levels of digital abuse:
- There are over 700,000 cases of stalking (2013 British Crime Survey)
- 2 million victims of domestic abuse (2014 British Crime Survey)
- 7 women a month are murdered by their abuser
- 2 men a month are murdered by their abuser
- 500 women a year commit suicide (Walby 2004)
- 13 women are murdered – Honour Based Violence and over 3,000 cases of including abduction, mutilation and acid attacks.
- Credit card Identity theft 36.7 million per year (2014 Financial Fraud Action UK)