Friday, 3 May 2013

Could your Facebook friends stop you buying a house?

Lucy Hopkins,  Head of Sustainability and Consumer Futures, looks at why it's important to examine the downsides of the digital revolution.

Imagine a world where a company can refuse you a loan because your friends on Facebook have bad credit ratings.

Or one where you get worse deals than others when buying online because a company has tracked your search patterns and know that you’re not much of a bargain hunter. These things are already happening in the online world.

This is not to say that digital advances are a bad thing.

Widespread access to the internet and the tools and applications that have been built on it has brought many benefits – increased access to information, transparency, convenience and new means of communication to millions of people.

But there has been less focus on what the potential risks and challenges might be for consumers who are already adopting these technologies or who will take advantage of the new digital services and opportunities as they start to enter the mainstream in the next few years.

The Consumer Focus report, All that’s digital isn’t gold: The challenges and risks of the digital age, looks to address these concerns. Read it in CI's newly-launched Resource Zone

It covers issues from new web monopolies and online reputation management to unfair terms of data sharing and behavioural pricing.

The aim of highlighting these and other detriments is to prompt debate. It’s also to persuade those who are in a position to pre-empt and prevent these (regulators, enforcers, consumer groups and companies that operate in this area) to begin to think about, understand and respond to these consumer detriment issues now before they become widespread problems.

With change happening so fast, these groups also need to start to consider how best they can respond to the challenges these detriments will present to our traditional regulatory frameworks.

Challenges like the global nature of the downsides and the wheels of regulation not turning fast enough. These issues need to be addressed whilst the window of opportunity is still open.

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