Safety by Design takes a big step forward

Put it out Tuesday. Get it right by version three”. According to Professor Ross Anderson this was the dominant way of thinking in Big Tech long before Mark Zuckerberg’s updated nostrum – “move fast and break things”. Anderson suggests the reason this approach became prevelant in the industry, and IMHO continues to be, is because of the advantages gained from the famous “network effects”. Being first or early can be decisive in building up market share, providing a springboard for further investment and development.

If all you are doing is writing software for a machine to make better sausages I can step aside and leave you to it. Probably. But if you are designing products or services intended or likely to get into the hands of children you cannot be afforded any such leeway.

You would have thought, with products or services aimed at children or likely to be used by them, nobody would really need to be told to “think it through – look at all the angles, watch out for possible pitfalls, dangers to children, and stop them from happening.” Yet how many disasters have we had to face, particularly around the internet of things, even including toys? Let’s not get into the “adjustments” Google, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and the rest have had to introduce. By which I mean retrofit.

From today no tech company anywhere in the world has an excuse not to get it right first time. They need only look to Australia. The country’s e-Safety Commissioner has produced an absolutely stunning set of easy-to-use, free-to-use tools. Because they are aimed specifically at products or services which provide opportunities for social interaction they embrace internet users of every age and disposition but their particular relevance to children hardly needs further elaboration.

I have a sneaking feeling the tools will be used by every type of business or organization that works in digital spaces or builds products which can connect to the internet. To quote Commissioner Inman Grant they help “embed safety into the culture, ethos and operations” and those are things everyone should be concerned about in all types of undertakings.

The e-safety packages from Down Under are destined to become a must-have. There’s one aimed at start-ups and one for the mid-tier or enterprise level. Industry was closely involved in preparing the tools so there is zero fat or flab, highly tailored to be optimally usable by a wide range of people engaged in bringing products to market.

Henceforth, as part of due diligence, every would-be investor will or should demand to know that what they are being asked to put their money into, lend their name and reputation to, is following the processes and steps which the Antipodeans take you through with exquisite care and attention to detail.

I have had a demo. Companies and not-for-profits will be beating a path to the Aussies’ virtual door. Or they will if they have any sense.

About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International, Technical Adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, which is administered by Save the Children Italy and an Advisory Council Member of Beyond Borders (Canada). Amongst other things John is or has been an Adviser to the United Nations, ITU, the European Union, the Council of Europe and European Union Agency for Network and Information Security and is a former Executive Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. He is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John has advised many of the world's largest internet companies on online child safety. In June, 2012, John was appointed a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This was renewed in 2018. More: http://johncarrcv.blogspot.com
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