Doteveryone report recommends creation of an Office for Responsible Technology

New body would regulate technology and ensure digital benefits are shared fairly.

Doteveryone, “the responsible technology think tank” founded by Martha Lane Fox, has published a report with the results of research it carried out on attitudes to technology in the early stages of the covid-19 pandemic. It originally carried out research in 2018 and says that since then, the tech space has changed with revelations like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but also it has become more commonplace to use wearable tech or voice assistants and biometric technology such as fingerprint and facial recognition technology is more common. The pandemic has led to an even greater reliance on technology.

Key findings

The findings of the report were:

  • The vast majority of people think the internet has improved their lives but are less convinced that it has been good for society as a whole. 81% say the internet has made life a lot or a little better for ‘people like me’ while 58% say it has had a very positive or fairly positive impact on society overall. Around half feel optimistic about how technology will affect their lives and society in the future.
  • 58% of the public say that the tech sector is regulated too little. They identify government and independent regulators as having most responsibility for directing the effects of technology on people and society.
  • People are taking a range of measures online that stem from their digital understanding. Most people have checked their privacy settings looked for news outside their filter bubble and over half used an ad blocker, but people tend to take these actions only occasionally.
  • Nearly half feel they have no choice but to sign up to services despite concerns and that there’s no point reading terms and conditions because companies will do what they want anyway.
  • Over a quarter of the public say they’ve reported experiencing a problem online but that nothing happened as a result. More than half would like more places to seek help and a more straightforward procedure for reporting tech companies.
  • Less than a fifth believe tech companies are designing their products and services with their best interests in mind. Half believe it’s ‘part and parcel' of being online that people will try to cheat or harm them in some way.

Recommendations

The report recommends the creation of an independent body, the Office for Responsible Technology, to lead a concerted, coordinated and urgent effort to create a regulatory landscape fit for the digital age and ensure the benefits of technology are evenly shared in a post-pandemic world.

It recommends all tech companies implement trustworthy, transparent design patterns that show how services work and give people meaningful control over how they operate. The CMA, in coordination with the ICO, should set and enforce best practice for understandability, transparency and meaningful choice for the platforms where people spend most of their time online.

It recommends that the UK government should base its forthcoming media literacy strategy around new models of public empowerment for the digital age that:

  • meet people where they are, with opportunities to act embedded into products and services;
  • provide information that’s specific to the issue and tailored to the individual’s capability and mindset; and 
  • enhance rather than detract from current online experiences and create feedback about the effect of any action, creating the motivation to act.

Another recommendation is that all tech companies create accessible and straightforward ways for people to report concerns and provide clear information about the actions they take as a result. Ait also recommends that the incoming online harms regulator provide robust oversight of companies’ complaints processes founded on seven principles of better redress in the digital age:

  • Design that is as good as the rest of the service
  • Signposting at the point-of-use
  • Simple, short, straightforward processes
  • Feedback at every step
  • Navigating complexity
  • Auditability and openness
  • Proportionality

Finally the report recommends that digitally-capable super complainants should be empowered to demand collective redress from technology-driven harms on the public’s behalf and to channel unresolved disputes between individuals and companies. The government should support coordination for civil society organisations helping people to address the effects of technology-driven harms on their lives.

Published: 2020-05-13T11:00:00

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