I was incredibly psyched when I received my VaiKai Companion doll and it already shipped with the Trustmark!
In Rotterdam, we celebrated 5 years of our annual ThingsCon conference, and oh boy it was a blast. Videos forthcoming; in the meantime, here are some photos. We also have a new website at thingscon.org.
Thanks to fellow Mozfellow Meghan McDermott and Aspen Institute I got to spend a few days in NYC discussing if and how the principles underlying the Trustable Technology Mark might be useful for the Smart City context. Namely, could they be applied to Smart City procurement or some other mechanism that provides leverage for quality control and for defending citizens’ rights?
A Nordic Progressive Tech Agenda
As part of some work with the good folks at FEPS, I headed on up to Oslo for a workshop with SAMAK and their Nordic allies to discuss what a Nordic agenda for tech and society might look like. So many things to explore there, I’m grateful to be part of this larger conversation.
A hopefully largely flight free Q1 as part of an experiment on more sustainable habits; lots of planning around ThingsCon and the Trustmark; more conversations around a European digital agenda and Smart Cities.
If you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, I have very limited availability but am always happy to have a chat. I’m currently doing the planning for Q2 and Q3 2019.
ThingsCon is turning 5! This thought still blows my mind. We’ll be celebrating at ThingsCon Rotterdam (also with a new website) where we’ll also be launching the Trustmark (as mentioned above). This week is for tying up all the loose ends so that we can then open applications to the public.
A Progressive European Digital Agenda
Last month I mentioned that I was humbled (and delighted!) to be part of a Digital Rights Cities Coalition at the invitation of fellow Mozilla Fellow Meghan McDermott (see her Mozilla Fellows profile here). This is one of several threads where I’m trying to extend the thinking and principles behind the Trustable Technology Mark beyond the consumer space, notably into policy—with a focus on smart city policy.
Besides the Digital Rights Cities Coalition and some upcoming work in NYC around similar issues, I was kindly invited by the Foundation for Progressive European Studies (FEPS) to help outline the scope of a progressive European digital agenda. I was more than a little happy to see that this conversation will continue moving forward, and hope I can contribute some value to it. Personally I see smart cities as a focal point of many threads of emerging tech, policy, and the way we define democratic participation in the urban space.
Trips to Rotterdam (ThingsCon & Trustmark), NYC (smart cities), Oslo (smart cities & digital agenda).
If you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, I have very limited availability but am always happy to have a chat. I’m currently doing the planning for Q2 2019.
For the Trustable Technology Mark, we identified 5 dimensions that indicate trustworthiness. Let’s call them trust indicators:
Privacy & Data Practices: Does it respect users’ privacy and protect their data rights?
Transparency: Is it clear to users what the device and the underlying services do and are capable of doing?
Security: Is the device secure and safe to use? Are there safeguards against data leaks and the like?
Stability: How long a life cycle can users expect from the device, and how robust are the underlying services? Will it continue to work if the company gets acquired, goes belly-up, or stops maintenance?
Openness: Is it built on open source or around open data, and/or contributes to open source or open data? (Note: We treat Openness not as a requirement for consumer IoT but as an enabler of trustworthiness.)
Now these 5 trust indicators—and the questions we use in the Trustable Technology Mark to assess them—are designed for the context of consumer products. Think smart home devices, fitness trackers, connected speakers or light bulbs. They work pretty well for that context.
Over the last few months, it has become clear that there’s demand for similar trust indicators for areas other than consumer products like smart cities, artificial intelligence, and other areas of emerging technology.
I’ve been invited to a number of workshops and meetings exploring those areas, often in the context of policy making. So I want to share some early thoughts on how we might be able to translate these trust indicators from a consumer product context to these other areas. Please note that the devil is in the detail: This is early stage thinking, and the real work begins at the stage where the assessment questions and mechanisms are defined.
The main difference between consumer context and publicly deployed technology—infrastructure!—means that we need to focus even most strongly on safeguards, inclusion, and resilience. If consumer goods stop working, there’s real damage, like lost income and the like, but in the bigger picture, failing consumer goods are mostly a quality of life issue; and in the case of consumer IoT space, mostly for the affluent. (Meaning that if we’re talking about failure to operate rather than data leaks, the damage has a high likelihood of being relatively harmless.)
For publicly deployed infrastructure, we are looking at a very different picture with vastly different threat models and potential damage. Infrastructure that not everybody can rely on—equally, and all the time—would not just be annoying, it might be critical.
After dozens of conversations with people in this space, and based on the research I’ve been doing both for the Trustable Technology Mark and my other work with both ThingsCon and The Waving Cat, here’s a snapshot of my current thinking. This is explicitly intended to start a debate that can inform policy decisions for a wide range of areas where emerging technologies might play a role:
Privacy & Data Practices: Privacy and good data protection practices are as essential in public space as in the consumer space, even though the implications and tradeoffs might be different ones.
Transparency & Accountability: Transparency is maybe even more relevant in this context, and I propose adding Accountability as an equally important aspect. This holds especially true where commercial enterprises install and possibly maintain large scale networked public infrastructure, like in the context of smart cities.
Security: Just as important, if not more so.
Resilience: Especially for smart cities (but I imagine the same holds true for other areas), we should optimize for Resilience. Smart city systems need to work, even if parts fail. Decentralization, openness, interoperability and participatory processes are all strategies that can increase Resilience.
Openness: Unlike in the consumer space, I consider openness (open source, open data, open access) essential in networked public infrastructure—especially smart city technology. This is also a foundational building block for civic tech initiatives to be effective.
There are inherent conflicts and tradeoffs between these trust indicators. But **if we take them as guiding principles to discuss concrete issues in their real contexts, I believe they can be a solid starting point. **
I’ll keep thinking about this, and might adjust this over time. In the meantime, I’m keen to hear what you think. If you have thoughts to share, drop me a line or hit me up on Twitter.
It’s an annual collection of essays by experts from the ThingsCon community. With the Riot Report 2018 we want to investigate the current state of responsible IoT. In this report we explore observations, questions, concerns and hopes from practitioners and researchers alike. The authors share the challenges and opportunities they perceive right now for the development of an IoT that serves us all, based on their experiences in the field. The report presents a variety of differing opinions and experiences across the technological, regional, social, philosophical domains the IoT touches upon.
Our contributors are a veritable all-star lineup from around the globe including Christian Villum, David Li, Dries de Roeck, Prof. Dr. Eduardo Magrani, Prof. Dr. Elisa Giaccardi, Ester Fritsch, Prof. Dr. Gaia Scagnetti, Holly Robbins, Iohanna Nicenboim, Prof. Dr. Irina Shklovski, Iskander Smit, Dr. James Pierce, Dr. Laura James, Luca van der Heide, Maya Indira Ganesh, Peter Bihr, Dr. Rachel Douglas-Jones, Dr. Ronaldo Lemos, Prof. Dr. Seyram Avle, Prof. Dr. Silvia Lindtner, and Simon Höher.
Trustable Technology mark
With lots of priceless input from Jason Schultz, the kind help from our partner test companies, and based on feedback from across the ThingsCon network, we’ve managed to hugely streamline the application process for ThingsCon’s Trustable Tech mark—while also making it a lot more robust by putting human experts in the loop.
Current overview presentation from earlier this week:
Lots of travel and a brief time off means a combined summer-ish edition of month notes for June & July. A lot has happened over the last 8 or so weeks, so let’s dive right in. In no particular order…
Trustable Technology mark
The ThingsCon trustmark for IoT has a name, finally! Meet the Trustable Technology mark, or #trustabletech for short. The URL (trustabletech.com) still forwards to the trustmark page on ThingsCon.com, but will have its own place soon. The most current version of the explainer presentation is up on Slideshare:
What’s more, I’m not alone in this endeavor—far from it! More and more folks from the ThingsCon network have been giving their input, which is priceless. Also, Pete Thomas (University of Dundee) has been taking the design lead and been a great sparring partner on strategy questions, and Jason Schultz (NYU Law) has been thinking about legal and policy implications. A big thank you to Pete & Jason! I’m super excited this is moving along at such a clip.
I got to join a whole bunch of things those last few weeks.
I thoroughly enjoyed both a workshop on IoT security and market surveillance by Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, where we discussed all things certification, incentives and assessment frameworks; and the always fascinating Museum of the Future workshop in Berlin. I’d been to one in Amsterdam before, and even though I’m spoiled by greatly curated events, the group that Noah & team convene in this context is humbling and fascinating and the only thing I wished is that I could have been there full time, which this time alas wasn’t possible.
In between the two I got to go to New York City for meetings and a quick swing-by at Data & Society, as well as Toronto for the Mozilla Foundation’s all-hands where I was kindly invited to participate as a fellow. Speaking of committed & warm & driven groups!
After that, some family time in the Pacific Northwest, and a short vacation, which included a little road trip through the Cascades. What a stunning & wonderful region!
On one hand I’m gearing up the planning for fall. If you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, I have very limited availability but am always happy to have a chat.
On the other I’m pretty much heads-down to get the trustmark to the next level. This includes the nitty gritty work of both improving the trustmark assessment tool, and of lining up launch partners. It also means planning a little road show to expose this idea to more eyes and ears, including ThingsCon Salon Cologne, Mozfest, ThingsCon Amsterdam, and a few other events in between. We’re also in the middle of copy-editing the upcoming 2018 issue of the ThingsCon report “The State of Responsible IoT” (#RIoT). More on that soon.
I was very happy to be interviewed by Christoph Koch for the current issue (07/2018) of Brand Eins. We spoke about the Internet of Things (IoT), how it challenges the notion of ownership, and how we can know which products to trust. Featuring the Trustable Technology mark we’ve been working on!
One of the joys of my working at the intersection of emerging tech and its impact is that I get to discuss things that are by definition cutting edge with people from entirely different backgrounds—like recently with my dad. He’s 77 years old and has a background in business, not tech.
We chatted about IoT, and voice-enabled connected devices, and the tradeoffs they bring between convenience and privacy. How significant chunks of the internet of things are optimized for costs at the expense of privacy and security. How IoT is, by and large, a network of black boxes.
When I tried to explain why I think we need a trustmark for IoT (which I’m building with ThingsCon and as a Mozilla fellow)—especially regarding voice-enabled IoT—he listened intently, thought about it for a moment, and then said:
“We’re at a point in time where the world doesn’t know where it wants to go.”
And somehow that exactly sums it up, ever so much more eloquently than I could have phrased it.
Only I’m thinking: Even though I can’t tell where the world should be going, I think I know where to plant our first step—and that is, towards a more transparent and trustworthy IoT. I hope the trustmark can be our compass.