The attack security experts and government are ignoring and it's costing lives.
If you lose £500 due to online fraud, it's terrible. But hopefully it's a one-off incident and you soon carry on life as normal. If you are being targeted by a vindictive ex-partner, angry customer, jealous colleague or simply someone who has fallen in love with your profile - then you don't get your life back, at least not in one piece.
Unlike fraud, this type of attack can last months but often it’s years. The numbers of people being targeted isn’t as high as fraud victims but it still runs into the millions each year. But the impact is far greater. This type of abuse leads to reputations being ruined, losing a job, relationships destroyed, isolation, fear, suicide and even murder.
But this crime is largely ignored by the technology industry and government – with the exception of children.
The lack of individual safety starts at the product design. Social media and other companies should consider the opportunity for abuse before they bring out a new feature. They should consider how default settings increase risks for abuse. But they don’t. Why? Sometimes it’s because privacy and safety isn’t part of the company culture or product design. Frankly, other times it’s because commercial decisions are made at the expense of the individual.
Last year, I wrote a guide on how to keep vulnerable victims safe when using an iPhone. I asked Apple to review and comment on the advice before I released it. Their response, “this advice goes against our product positioning”. In other words, we won’t accept that if you are a high risk individual that you should take extra measures when using your iPhone to increase your safety and privacy. I was astonished to get a point blank refusal to help.
The guide was for our members of parliament who are constantly targeted and who may have sensitive government information on their devices. If Apple won’t help us protect a high profile group like politicians with all the positive PR they could have gained, then why would they possibly care about domestic abuse victims being tracked by their partners using the Apple “find my phone” feature?
What technology companies don’t get is there are a lot of features in products or services that are great, useful but once you become targeted by someone, they pose a risk. It isn’t necessarily an inherent risk in the product but a feature that can be misused to great effect.
Personally, I think there is a huge commercial opportunity for those companies who put personal safety and privacy high on their product agenda. Consumers are catching on to the need to be more cautious about their digital lives.
Digital-Trust is a pro-technology organisation. We want the support and to work with industry leaders and tech companies. The ones that truly want to be the corporate good guys.
The new buzz phrase, believe it or not, is “digital trust”. It means that companies need to rebuild trust of the users who are feeling let down, and used. No one feels more let down than a victim where a product or services is used as a tool against them.
The Digital-Trust is the only organisation that identifies and monitors how technology is being used in domestic violence, stalking, honour based violence, hate crimes. What we do is unique. We are an umbrella organisation, supporting a range of other victim charities who don’t have technical skills to advice their victims.
Honestly, we can’t do it on our own. Funding our work is a huge challenge. We rely on the goodwill of a lot different technical, legal, policing experts. We still have more work than our staff and volunteers can do. We want to work with industry to produce amazing new initiatives. Like our latest project of using victim data and analytics to mitigate risks.
Are you good guy, is your company? Then work with us, work with the Digital-Trust.