Note: This blog post is cross-posted from Medium.
A new tool by ThingsCon in Berlin will help consumers identify which devices truly respect their privacy and security starting 6 December 2018.
Every day, millions of consumers rely on trustmarks to make informed purchases. These simple icons convey critical information, like whether or not food is organic, automobiles are safe, or bank accounts are insured.
Yet many of the internet-connected devices we buy — from AI speakers and wearables to smart toys for kids — don’t have trustmarks. It can be incredibly difficult to truly assess products’ privacy and security features. As a result, consumers are largely in the dark about whether or not an IoT device will respect their personal data.
So today, ThingsCon is launching the Trustable Technology Mark: A tool for consumers to assess whether an IoT device truly respects their privacy and security. It’s also a tool for companies to show their products are trustworthy.
Says Peter Bihr, ThingsCon co-founder and a Mozilla Fellow leading the Trustable Technology Mark initiative: “IoT devices are only becoming more widespread and more advanced — they live in our kitchens and bedrooms, and they access our calendars and our conversations. As a result, consumers should have answers to important questions like What personal data does this product collect? How is that data stored? Who has access to that data? And Can I easily export that data?”
The Trustable Technology Mark answers these questions. To earn the mark, IoT products are evaluated using five criteria:
- Privacy & Data Practices: Is it designed using state of the art data practices, and respectful of user rights?
- Transparency: Is it made clear to users what the device does and how data might be used?
- Security: Is it designed and built using state of the art security practices and safeguards?
- Stability: How robust is the device and how long of a life cycle can a consumer reasonably expect?
- Openness: How open are both the device and the manufacturer’s processes? Is open data used or generated?
Trustable Technology Mark evaluations are carried out by neutral experts at ThingsCon, a collective of engineers, designers, and researchers who are devoted to more responsible IoT. ThingsCon is based in Berlin, Germany, and conducts research, hosts conferences, provides fellowships, and more.
Any device maker is welcome to complete a thorough self-assessment and submit it for evaluation. The results of these self-assessments are published in full under an open license as part of the Trustable Technology Mark certification requirements.
The evaluation process is rigorous. But the end result is convenient and straightforward for consumers — when a product passes review, the Trustable Technology Mark icon can be featured on its web page or packaging.
The mark is launching with proof of concept in two categories: voice assistants and connected toys. snips.ai, a smart voice assistant from France, and Vai Kai, a connected toy from Germany, have already qualified for the mark.
Says Dr. Rand Hindi, CEO and cofounder of Snips: “This qualification is a true recognition of the great work conducted by Snips team over the last year. I am extremely proud of it. Our belief is that by running their voice assistant on the Edge and totally offline rather than in the Cloud, companies can guarantee Privacy by Design, without compromising on performance, brand or user experience.”
Says Justyna Zubrycka, co-founder and CDO of Vai Kai: “It is the core value of Vai Kai company to provide safe and high quality connected products for especially sensitive period of human development that is an early childhood. One of the basic principle of our design is that toys don’t collect any personal user’s data. All the digital advantages are there to support child’s development, and to help us constantly improve our products. We see Technology Mark as an extremely important initiative that promotes connected technology created with these values upfront.”
The mark also has the support of several academic and policy partners, including ITS Rio, NYU Technology Law & Policy Clinic, CIS India, BiLGi Information Technology Law Institute, Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab, University of Dundee, Centrum Cyfrowe, and Technical University of Dresden’s Institute of Media and Communication. These partners will promote the Trustable Technology Mark in their curriculum, publications, and events.
Say Jon Rogers, Mozilla Fellow and Professor of Creative Technology at University of Dundee: “At a time when the Internet of Things is becoming a powerful force for almost every aspect of our lives — on our bodies, in our homes and across our cities — we have to ask the question ‘do we trust it?’ I wouldn’t take medicines that didn’t come with a clear trusted label; I wouldn’t buy a car that didn’t come with documents telling me who had owned it and if it was safe. Yet, the things we’re buying that connect us, our family and our friends directly to the internet 24 hours a day, 365 days a week currently have almost no way to visibly and say ‘you can trust this.’ This is why the Trustable Technology Mark is so important.”
The release of the Trustable Technology Mark comes on the heels of deep research and network building by ThingsCon. In 2017, ThingsCon published “A Trustmark for IoT,” a thorough examination of the potentials and challenges of an IoT trustmark. ThingsCon has also developed a guiding Theory of Trust. Progress has been thoroughly documented through blogs, and the initiative’s development has garnered coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Offscreen Mag, the Internet Health Report, and other publications.
Companies may submit their products for evaluation beginning December 6. To do so, visit https://trustabletech.org/apply/. ThingsCon will begin administering Trustable Technology Marks in early 2019.
ThingsCon is a global community and event platform for IoT practitioners. Its mission is to foster the creation of a human-centric and responsible Internet of Things (IoT). Through events, research, publications and other initiatives, ThingsCon provides practitioners with an open environment for reflection & collaborative action. https://www.thingscon.org
Mozilla believes the internet must always remain a global public resource, open and accessible to all. Our work is guided by the Mozilla Manifesto. Mozilla focuses on fueling the movement for a healthy internet by supporting fellows working on key internet issues; connecting open internet leaders at events like MozFest; publishing critical research in the Internet Health Report; and rallying citizens around advocacy issues.