Release date 03/06/2017
YONKERS, N.Y. – Consumer Reports (CR), the world’s largest independent non-profit consumer organization, today announced the launch of an ambitious, collaborative effort to shape the digital marketplace in a way that puts consumers’ data security and privacy needs first.
This effort includes the creation of a digital privacy and security standard for consumers. The standard will aim to help guide companies in the design of mobile and Internet-connected products and services, such as smart appliances, mobile apps, and software. In addition, the standard will enable CR and other testing organizations to test, evaluate, and report on whether products protect consumer security and privacy, which will empower consumers to make smarter choices about the products they buy.
The first version of the standard is available today at https://thedigitalstandard.org. The standard is being developed in partnership with leading privacy, security, and consumer rights organizations, including CR, Disconnect, Ranking Digital Rights and the Cyber Independent Testing Lab, with assistance from Aspiration.
While the pace of new technologies is exciting and brings greater convenience to our lives, it also carries with it new threats to our security and personal privacy. Together with our partners, we’re embarking on this ambitious journey to ensure that consumers remain in the driver’s seat when it comes to the safety and security of their personal data.
CR will launch and scale its efforts to promote consumer interests in relation to privacy, security and data practices with the generous philanthropic investments of the Ford Foundation and The Craig Newmark Foundation and Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund. Mr. Newmark, the founder of craigslist, is a member of CR’s Board of Directors. His vision on the need to address the privacy and security challenges facing consumers in the digital age helped inform this new effort.
Marta L. Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports, said, “For more than 80 years we have been providing consumers with the trusted knowledge they need to make more informed choices and, against a rapidly evolving digital marketplace, our mission has never been more critical. While the pace of new technologies is exciting and brings greater convenience to our lives, it also carries with it new threats to our security and personal privacy. Together with our partners, we’re embarking on this ambitious journey to ensure that consumers remain in the driver’s seat when it comes to the safety and security of their personal data.”
A feature story on this initiative and the development of the standard is available at Consumer Reports Online.
The standard will identify and address potential risks in the data security and privacy of digitally-connected products. The partnership is developing the standard to encourage industry to design and produce safer products for consumers.
Another goal of the standard is to protect personal information obtained by products, apps and services after they are purchased. For example, CR exposed significant privacy risks in the popular pregnancy and fertility app Glow, in which users’ personal health information was easily accessed by individuals with basic hacking skills. Glow fixed the potentially dangerous lapses in security after CR testing revealed the problem.
This standard is designed to aggressively address compromises to online privacy and security and push for stringent protections in the marketplace.
“Most Americans – 96% of people polled, in fact – have serious doubts that their social networks will protect their privacy,” said Craig Newmark, who through his foundation has commissioned several national polls on online consumer privacy and online safety. “Americans want businesses to be held to tougher standards when it comes to protecting their personal data, and the new CR standard is about doing just that.”
Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, said, "The world of technology continues to expand at breakneck speed, creating opportunities and challenges in virtually every area of contemporary life. Consumer Reports’ new standard for consumer privacy will help ensure that the inequalities we see in the analog world are not replicated in the digital realm, and that the values of transparency, fairness, and justice extend into the complex digital marketplace."
In addition to the standard, CR will press companies and policymakers for reforms and greater oversight of the privacy, security and data usage of products and services. CR will also seek to elevate and amplify the consumer voice in the debates over these critical issues.
The new initiative seeks to address growing concerns about the vulnerability of products and services in the age of the Internet of Things, fueled by the numerous news reports of incidents such as Yahoo’s disclosure that 1 billion user accounts were hacked, and Chrysler’s recall of 1.4 million vehicles that could be remotely hacked online.
CR Opens Standard for Collaboration
The first iteration of the standard available at https://thedigitalstandard.org defines and reflects important consumer values that CR believes must be addressed in product development: electronics and software-based products should be secure, consumer information should be kept private, ownership rights of consumers should be maintained, and products should be designed to combat harassment and help protect freedom of expression.
The partnership is inviting input and participation from a wider community of expert organizations and individuals invested in these critical consumer issues. With larger community engagement in this open-source project, the partners will continue to shape, refine, test and improve the standard in order to ensure it is comprehensive, effective, and up-to-date in a rapidly-changing marketplace.
Maria Rerecich, Director of Electronics Testing for Consumer Reports, said, “We are making a long-term commitment to tackle a challenge of staggering complexity. In the spirit of collaboration, we are seeking participation from everyone who cares about these security and privacy issues. We’re excited about the potential to make a real difference that will empower consumers.”
CR’s Leadership on Developing Standards Builds on the Organization’s Transformation
CR’s leadership of this initiative reflects the ongoing transformation underway at Consumer Reports to better serve the interests and raise the voice of consumers navigating a new world of connected devices. By helping develop a new standard to address the most pressing data security issues and risks in the marketplace, CR will help consumers exercise their purchasing power to make smarter choices.
Consumer Reports has been an independent, trusted partner to millions of people since its founding in 1936. CR is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, and its testing, investigative work and research are funded by a mix of donations, grants and member subscriptions.
The Craig Newmark Foundation and the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund have contributed $1 million for this effort, which represents the largest contribution from organizations led by a member of CR's board of directors in the history of CR. The Ford Foundation has contributed $1.5 million for this effort.