Knowledge café: Building blocks of trust in the digital age

16 Jun 2017 12:45h - 14:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]

Ms Karen McCabe (IEEE Senior Director Technology Policy & International Affairs), introduced the session and stressed why trust is necessary in building a safer Internet. She then invited the panellists to present their initial thoughts on trust and their ideas for strengthening trust online. Mr Deepak Maheshwari (IEEE Internet Initiative Vice Chair, Director of Government Affairs in India and ASEAN Region at Symantec) began the discussion by raising the question of building and sustaining trust. He added that modern platforms powering innovation have a profound impact on people’s lives, and that with individuals and businesses increasingly reliant on digital platforms, trust becomes one of the most important drivers of future economic growth and shared prosperity. He further added that with the growing importance of ICTs, issues of trust, safety, and security can become barriers to achieving global benefits, particularly in developing countries. Following his introduction, the participants were split into groups to answer two different questions. The first question dealt with identifying opportunities for technical interoperability and trustworthiness. The second question dealt with encouraging security and privacy to emphasise ethical responsibility in their tech design, development, and use. 

Answering the two questions, the participants from the first group noted that users should be aware that their data is not completely secure once it is online, and that they should have the necessary technical awareness to secure their data. This could as simple as having a secure password online and following the basic necessary steps. This, the participants suggested, can be achieved through the capacity building, which can be carried out by civil society entities. They further added that the platforms should ensure that private data is only used for the purpose it is intended, and not for anything else. They noted that in many cases, the data generated in a platform is stored and used or sold later for additional revenue generation. The participants further stated that platforms should provide a cover of anonymity for people on shopping websites. The participants suggested that private companies should regularly update their users about privacy changes on their websites, and make terms of service agreements easier to comprehend.

Covering the perspective of government, the participants suggested that at least one, non-private, regulatory body should be established in each country to address issues of privacy, cyber security, and data protection. Furthermore, they said, this regulatory body should have the power to monitor government activities as well.

The second group of participants pointed out that there is a service provider accountability issue which undermines user trust online. The participants said they were weary of data capture by platforms and their non-transparent handling of personal data. This was identified as a concern and a risk factor. They called for users to be well informed about the platforms they are using and how their data is processed by these portals, in order to build trust.


by Krishna Kumar Rajmannar