A business-dominated session at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (2-5 March) covered the issue of user-centred privacy.
Since the introduction of the smartphone, many things have changed… But laws have not kept up with these changes. Can the law possibly to meaningful consumer experiences? The session on privacy was moderated by Pat Walshe, director of privacy, government, and regulatory affairs for the GSMA. The speakers included Eduardo Ustaran, partner at Hogan Lovells International LLP, Brian Hernacki, the chief architect of the New Devices Group at Intel, Denelle Dixon-Thayer, SVP, Business and Legal Affairs at Mozilla, Dr. Claus Ulmer, group privacy officer at Deutsche Telekom, and Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at F-Secure.
There are currently 7.1 billion SIMs, estimated to increase to 9 billion by 2020. In addition, Internet access is increasing, especially in developing countries, and particularly from mobile phones. The ubiquity of mobile devices, the Internet, apps, and services, is expanding users’ digital footprints on a massive scale. Today, data about devices and their users is generated and broadcast in real-time, often by default, and without the user being aware of, or having choice over its dissemination. What should be the approach to offering users transparency, choice and control over their data and privacy? How can devices, OSs, apps, and services be designed in ways that provide pragmatic user-driven privacy choices and controls? What frameworks exist and are emerging, to ensure data protection and privacy in a connected world?
- The only female speaker on the panel, from Mozilla, stressed the company’s desire that users have trust in the Internet ecosystem, and that the customers understand the value of the exchange in which they are participating: ‘Trust is the currency of the web’. The balance the industry has to find is, how much can they tell their users, without making them uncomfortable.. Here, the competition in the industry is a bit tricky – by being more transparent than your competitors, you may actually scare your own users more…
- The Deutsche Telekom Group also stressed trust as being the core Internet issue. Claus Ulmer argued that this is not about technical solutions, but about changing values in the company.
- The Hogan Lovells speaker dealt with the relevance of law in mobile technology. Since law cannot catch up with technology, what is actually the role of the law? The role of the law is to create the right conditions to support innovation, and to protect all of us as individuals. Nevertheless, to be effective, the law needs to change. And companies need to give something back. This is more complex, and involves access to data, data portability, and transparent profiling.
- Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer at F-Secure, spent the last 20 years researching where the threats to our privacy are coming from. And still, security keeps failing… For instance, malware is impossible to stop. We never have 100 percent security. However, there are success stories. Smartphone security is a success story. Here there are clear rules of the game, one of them specifying the theory that ’There’s no free lunch’. There are also no free apps… Apps monetise something in exchange.
- The representative from Intel spoke about privacy in wearables, and introduced the very different landscape for privacy these days: fewer technical manufacturers; much more sensing; much more data; and devices that need to share.
There was a lot of talk about value-sharing and trust, from the business leaders on the panel. However, where is the wider, and much more complex, context of Internet governance? So far the business perspective is dominating at the Mobile World Congress.