Consumers Day: Can Smart Products Be Trusted?

Consumers Day: Can Smart Products be Trusted?

On the world consumer rights day (WCRD), Pakistani users of smart products (mobile phone, TV, wearable devices) share their concerns with the consumers living in other countries with regard lack of security, privacy and meaningful choice over how we use them, as well as a lack of clarity about who is responsible when things go wrong

ISLAMABAD (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News / NNI - 14th March, 2019) On the world consumer rights day (WCRD), Pakistani users of smart products (mobile phone, tv, wearable devices) share their concerns with the consumers living in other countries with regard lack of security, privacy and meaningful choice over how we use them, as well as a lack of clarity about who is responsible when things go wrong.According to a survey conducted by TheNetwork for Consumer Protection to commemorate WCRD, a whopping 83% of the university going students say that they haven't allowed the telecom service providers to access their personal information.Despite the fact that all telecom providers have clauses to access and share a consumer personal information, 84% of the students say that they don't think that by signing the contract with telecom providers they allow the providers to share it with the third party.In the survey, 500 students of different universities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi were contacted regarding their concerns related to the use of smartphones.

Of the 150 million mobile phones users in Pakistan 77 % of smartphone users between 21 to 30 years old.It is predicted that by 2025, 72% of internet users will be accessing the internet exclusively via mobile.

Around half of these new users will come from China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan.TheNetwork is a member of Consumer International (CI), a UK based umbrella organisation of 200 members from more than 100 countries.A 2018 global consumer study of CI revealed that 52% of users are more concerned about their online privacy compared to one year ago.

While 43% of respondents from a different survey said, they wanted to know more about the data collected about them via their connected devices and 47% worried about identity theft. A significant data privacy risk arises from devices being able (and indeed designed) to communicate with each other and to transfer data autonomously to third parties.

Objects within a connected system may collect data or information that is innocuous on its own but which, when collated and analysed with other information, could reveal quite accurate knowledge of an individual resulting in increased user-traceability and profiling.A smart product can connect, share and interact with its user and other devices.

Smart products connect to the internet via different communication connections. The most popular consumer smart products are smartphones, games consoles, smart TVs, wearable health trackers, thermostats, toys and connected cars.

These devices are capable of collecting and analysing user data and transmitting it to other connected devices in a network. Networks of smart products are also known as the Internet of Things (IoT).Nadeem Iqbal CEO, TheNetwork says that as smart products are part of larger connected systems which can be used by hackers to access larger public systems and infrastructure and putting consumers personal information and safety at risk.Several high-profile privacy and data breaches have heightened Consumers' lack of trust in smart products.

For example, in 2016 nearly 65,000 smart devices were infected in 24 hours, gaining access through insecure printers, home Wi-Fi routers and baby monitors.Attacks like this are dangerous because the hacker's software searches for and then attacks any smart system in its chosen radius.

This could involve stealing bank details, controlling webcams and microphones, and taking control of any smart device in the house. As smart products become an increasingly common part of daily life, Consumers International wants to shine a light on how security and privacy can be built into the development process.

Last year, the interior ministry informed the Senate that during the first ten months of 2018 as many as 1,244 complaints were received regarding unauthorised transactions made through automated teller machines (ATMs) and Internet Banking Fund Transfers.Pakistan's smart product market is internationally competitive and keeping pace with global spread.As CI reports: "Over the past decade consumer uptake of smart products has steadily increased, and forecasts show this is going to continue.

Surveys suggest there are currently 23.1 billion connected devices installed globally, a figure expected to triple by 2025. Similarly, global consumer spending on smart products for the home is forecast to nearly double in all regions between 2017 and 2022.

In particular, the global adoption of smartphones has increased rapidly over the past three years. Today there are around 4 billion smartphone connections worldwide, nearly double the figure three years ago."The other findings of the survey show that 88% of the respondents said that they use smart devices other than smartphones including tablets, Smart TVs, Laptops, Smartwatches and other wearable intelligent products.Only 26% of the respondents did not receive timely updates from their smartphone manufacturer whereas 74% said that they receive timely security updates.87% of the respondents said that their parents are funding their data packages in the form of pocket money or additional funds for the services.

79% of the respondents use 1 GB or more than 1 GB internet weekly.The purpose of their smartphone usage was dominated by 38% education followed by 34% Socialization.86% of the respondents were keen internet users who know when their internet connection gets slow, and 70% respondents have issues with their services due to network coverage problems, once or more than once a week.65% of the users face network coverage problems during the time slot from 5 pm to 10 am.

This calls for improving the accessibility of the services by the telecom service providers. More than 40% of respondents ranked mobile phones services expensive.There are SMART (Search, Make, Adjust, Regularly, Turn Off) tips for the consumers that they should search for potential security and privacy issues before buying.

They should be using strong and unique passwords for each device, and the setting should be changed to maximum security and privacy, regularly update the security updates and turn off features when not in use.TheNetwork also sent a letter to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the regulator, with recommendations:� Ensure that consumers have access to an affordable, high-quality, high-speed internet connection to enable them to take up the opportunities brought about by the Internet of Things technology.� Ensure that consumer's connected products should be sold with basic security as standard and updates should be provided for a reasonable period after the sale so that hackers can't access consumers' data or alter the functionality of the product.� Consumers' privacy and data protection rights must be appropriately protected and upheld to address potential harms such as discriminatory practices, invasive marketing, loss of privacy and security breaches.� Connected products should abide by interoperable and compatible device and software standards to avoid lock-in effects and enhance consumers' ability to compare and switch providers easily.


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