Tech Tip – ExpressVPN App

If you’d prefer to keep your communications from your mobile device as secure as possible you may like to try a secure VPN app such as ExpressVPN.

The Express VPN app is straightforward to use, offers both a virtual private network and a number of advanced features such as the choice of connecting to 100+ servers around the world. ExpressVPN, which hides your IP address and encrypts your network data offers apps for every device you own on a single subscription: Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, routers, and more.

The app is available from the Google Play store and Apple’s App Store / iTunes.

Revenue Risk To UK Companies Too Slow To Adopt AI

Research from the McKinsey Global Institute shows that UK companies could lose 20% of their cash flow if they are too slow to invest in and adopt Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools.

Could Miss Out

Even though the report highlighted the UK’s higher than average AI-readiness, the country could miss out on a potential 22% boost to the economy and a 120% growth for individual businesses if organisations do not start investing now in AI tools that could help them gain considerable competitive advantages.

Investment Pockets

The research noted that the UK currently only has pockets of innovation for AI e.g. Google’s DeepMind AI division, and that in order to replicate this kind of innovation for growth, businesses need to be in a position where they can offer AI at scale, invest in the necessary talent and find ways to use the findings of the latest research to help achieve commercial success.

IT Skills Shortage

The UK already has an IT skills shortage and is experiencing a “brain drain” from UK university talent to US companies, a further brain drain pressure caused by Brexit fears, and the pull of attractive higher salaries and advanced tech sector careers in tech firms overseas.

Oxford University – Massive Donation For AI

One way of combatting an AI brain-drain and helping to grow UK AI talent which could help UK businesses with AI is to have an AI centre in the UK.  Oxford University has just received the largest single donation to a UK university of £150m from US private equity billionaire and Republican political adviser Stephen Schwarzman for the purpose of building an institute to study the ethics of AI. Mr Schwarzman is reported as saying that artificial intelligence is the major issue of our age.  He has also given £279m to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to establish a centre for computing and artificial intelligence.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Both this research, and some Nesta research from last year have highlighted how UK businesses may be facing added competitive challenges and missing out on revenue in the not-too-distant future due to an ongoing skills shortage that has been amplified and exacerbated by Brexit uncertainty, and by late investment in and adoption of AI.

McKinsey’s latest research builds on its research from last year where it attempted to simulate the effects of AI on the global economy.  The results showed that AI could deliver additional global economic activity of around $13 trillion by 2030, or about 16 per cent higher cumulative GDP compared with today. This, of course, would be good for businesses that have invested in AI, and where many of the potential challenges are adequately tackled e.g. the UK’s IT skills shortage.  It should also be accepted that the productivity growth that AI could help fuel is likely to be affected by a host of different factors in different parts of the world e.g. labour automation, innovation, the pace of adoption of AI, and the global connectedness or labour-market structure of any given country.

It is also worth noting that AI can deliver threats as well as opportunities, in the form of AI-based cyber-attacks which are a developing risk to whole nations and economies as well as individual businesses. This is certainly one area where nations such as the UK must invest in its own AI defence structures and tools.

ICO’s Own Website Fails GDPR Compliance Test

Irony and embarrassment are the order of the day as the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is responsible for ensuring GDPR compliance in the websites of businesses and organisations has been forced to admit that its own website is not GDPR compliant.

Cookie Consent Notice

The problem, as pointed out to the ICO by Adam Rose, a lawyer at Mishcon de Reya, is that the ICO’s website currently uses implied consent to place cookies on mobile devices, which is prohibited under the Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) 2003.  These Regulations operate alongside GDPR, and as highlighted on the ICO’s own website, consent needs to be clearly given for cookies (e.g. by a tick box) and where they are set, the website needs to give users, mobile or otherwise, a clear explanation of what the cookies do and why.

Article 6

It has been reported that Mr Rose argued that the ICO’s own website’s cookie consent tools were at odds with Article 6 of PECR.

ICO’s Own Guide

For example, in the ICO’s own online guide, in terms of getting marketing consent, it states that “some form of very clear positive action” is needed, “for example, ticking a box, clicking an icon, or sending an email – and the person must fully understand that they are giving you consent”.

Cookies Admission

Under “Cookies” in the guide, and in admission of not being fully compliant itself at the moment, the ICO now states that “We use a cookies tool on our website which relies on implied consent of users.  In recognition of the fact that the implementation date for the revised e-Privacy Regulation remains unknown, we are taking reasonable steps now to align our use of cookies the standard of consent required by GDPR.  This means that we are in the process of updating the tool (Civic Cookie Tool) which, by default, requires explicit opt-in action by users of our website.”

This means that the ICO has yet to upgrade to the version of the Civic Cookie Tool which includes explicit opt-in, and therefore, the ICO isn’t currently compliant with the laws that it is supposed to help implement and uphold.

Why?

Even though the ICO announced back in May last year that it would be upgrading to the new version of the Civic Cookie Tool, this has not yet happened. This appears to indicate a possible failure on the ICO’s part in the planning and implementation aspects of this particular tool on its website.

Also, as some tech and security commentators have pointed out, there is still a lack of clear legal rules on cookie compliance, and this has even led to confusion on some points among data protection experts.

It could also be argued that a lack of regulatory enforcement against cookie compliance breaches may mean that most website operators can still put consent rules to the bottom of the list of business priorities with no fear of consequence.  It’s also unclear if the regulator would or would not be able to carry out some kind of enforcement of the law against itself.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Many businesses may be thinking that, aside from the obvious irony of the regulator not being totally compliant, what hope do the rest of us have of getting it right if the ICO can’t?

This story could also act as a reminder to businesses that consent is a complicated area in data protection, and that it may be worth revisiting what cookie consent tools are in place on their websites and whether they are up to date and compliant.  For example, as the ICO has discovered, if you’re responsible for implementing the updated version of tools relating to your GDPR compliance, the planning and implementation needs to be managed in order to avoid unwittingly leaving the organisation open to possible infringements of current regulations.

Samsung’s Advice To Virus-Check TVs Causes Customer Concern

Samsung’s recent release of a how-to virus check video coupled with the advice to complete the check “every few weeks” has caused confusion and concern among customers.

Video

At the heart of Samsung’s virus-checking information release was a 19-second video guide that Samsung said had been posted simply to educate and inform customers. The video guide, which was watched more than 200,000 times, was presented to customers via a tweet which it is reported, has since been deleted.

The video showed Samsung TV owners how to access the sub-menu and go to the System Manager to conduct their own “Smart Security Scan”.

Although this feature is already built-in to Samsung TVs, it was the fact that the tweeted video contained the advice that customers would need to carry out the scan themselves every few weeks to prevent malicious software attacks that caused concern that there were known attack attempts or that their QLED TVs were vulnerable in some way.

Misunderstanding

Samsung is since reported to have said that the video was simply for information and was a proactive way to remind and educate customers that the feature existed and how to operate it as a preventative measure and that the video was not sent as a reaction to a specific current threat.

What Are The Risks?

A smart TV is essentially an IoT device, and as such, faces similar potential risks to other IoT devices, although Samsung TVs don’t appear to be at any more of risk than other devices.  In fact, back in 2017, after claims that many zero-day vulnerabilities had been found in Samsung’s smart TV operating system, the company reminded users that its TVs already contained features that allowed them to detect malicious code at platform and application levels.

That said, Samsung’s Smart TVs are likely to have a built-in microphone, an Internet connection with streaming apps, and customers may enter credit card details for buying on-demand video content. All this means that the potential privacy and security risks exist.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It appears that security and privacy are very sensitive subjects for consumers and that an attempt to remind customers about a security feature ended up highlighting one of the risks of owning a smart TV, leading to concern and an unnecessary PR gaffe.

In the light of the tweet and video, some security commentators have criticised Samsung for making security checks the responsibility of the customer rather than the company sending out automatic security updates.  Also, the company may be expecting too much of some of its customers to ask them to delve into the perhaps complicated sub-menu to find the virus scan feature, and to do so on a regular basis.

UK National Surveillance Camera Day – 20th June

In a world first, the UK will play host to an awareness-raising National Surveillance Camera Day on 20 June as part of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy.

National Surveillance Camera Day

The National Surveillance Camera Day, which is part of the UK government’s National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales will consist of events around the country that are designed to raise awareness, inform and lead to a debate about the many different aspects of CCTV camera use (and facial recognition use) in the UK. The Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) is hoping that the public will take the day as an opportunity to have their say about the future of surveillance cameras with the regulators and service providers listening.

It is hoped that points raised in the debate triggered by the day could help inform policymakers and service providers about how the public feels about surveillance practices and how surveillance camera system use fits with society’s needs and expectations.

One of the key events to mark the day is the “doors open” initiative to allow the public to see first-hand how surveillance camera control centres are operated at the premises of signatories to the initiative e.g. local authorities, police forces, hospitals, and universities.

What / Who Is The SCC?

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) for England and Wales is appointed by the Home Secretary as set out in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA) and it is the Commissioner’s role to ensure surveillance camera systems in public places keep people safe and protect and support them. The current SCC is Tony Porter.

What Is The National Surveillance Camera Strategy?

The National Surveillance Camera Strategy is the government document, presented by the SCC that outlines the plans for surveillance camera use going forward.  The 27-page document is available online here:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-surveillance-camera-strategy-for-england-and-wales

Two Related World Firsts

Another related world first that is due to take place on the same day as National Surveillance Camera Day will be the launch by the SCC of a “secure by default” list of minimum requirements for manufacturers of video surveillance systems, designed for manufacturers by manufacturers.  The hope is that where manufacturers meet the new “secure by default” minimum requirements, this should ensure that the default settings of a product are as secure as possible, and therefore less likely to be vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could lead to data breaches.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Most of us are used to (and often no longer notice) CCTV cameras in use in business premises and public spaces, and we accept that they have a value in protecting us and our businesses in terms of deterring criminals and playing an important role in identifying them, and in providing valuable evidence of crime.

Holding a National Surveillance Camera day highlights the fact that new and emerging technologies e.g. facial recognition and AI are currently causing concern in terms of possible infringements to civil liberties, privacy and security, and an ‘open-day’ style approach could have benefits both ways.  For example, it could serve to reassure the public and at least let them feel that their views and concerns will be listened to, while at the same time giving policy-makers an opportunity to gauge public opinion and gather information that could help guide their strategy and communications.

It is good news that manufacturers are setting themselves minimum security standards for their CCTV systems as part of “secure by default”, as this could have knock-on positive effects in protecting our personal data.

Could Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency Be The Future Of Money?

Facebook has announced the launch of its new crypto-currency called ‘Libra’ 2020 which will enable payments to be made by a special phone app and by messaging services such as WhatsApp so that spending the new currency could be as easy and fast as texting.

Libra Association

Management of the currency, units of which can be purchased via Libra’s platforms and stored it in a digital wallet called “Calibra” will be the responsibility of an independent group of companies called the Libra Association.

In addition to Facebook, the Association has 27 other members/partners, all of whom will most likely have to accept Libra, including Mastercard, PayPal, eBay, Spotify, Uber, Vodafone, and a variety of charities such as Women’s World Banking.

Not Like Bitcoin

Libra will be protected from the kinds of wild fluctuations and instability that plagued the Bitcoin crypto-currency because Libra will be asset-backed and pegged to other currencies.

It also has the major payment and credit companies on board as members of its Association which means that it has already been legitimised and is likely to gain widescale practical use in the real world rather than simply be seen as a fast money-making opportunity.

Advantages

One of the major advantages of the Libra currency is that it has no traditional bank ‘middleman’, therefore enabling fast and frictionless transactions. This could help it to eventually become a global currency, therefore enabling easier international spending. It will also have the advantage of being fast and convenient to use.

Target

According to Facebook, the initial main target market for the use of Libra is the 1.7 billion adults worldwide who do not have a bank account, although 1 million plus of these already have a smartphone, thereby enabling them to use the apps through which Libra can be operated.  This “unbanked” segment of the potential market is known to contain mainly people from developing countries, a large proportion of which are women.

Some questions have already been raised, however, about how Libra will be able to meet other challenges such as being able to verify the identity of people in this demographic (many of whom don’t have ID documents), and how Libra can meet compliance challenges.

What’s In It For Facebook?

In addition to being recognised as being the company at the heart of what could potentially become a global currency, Facebook will receive a small commission amount for every transaction.

Security and Trust?

Ever since the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica personal data protection scandal, Facebook has suffered from a lack of trust.  The thought of Facebook overseeing a currency has, therefore, made some commentators raise questions about the governance and security issues of Libra.  In fact, even though Libra is Facebook’s currency, the governance of it will be split between all of the Association members.  Also, the Calibra payments system will have strong protection to keep money and personal information safe by using the same verification and anti-fraud processes that banks and credit cards use.  Also, any money that is stolen from the system will be refunded, thereby providing greater reassurance to users of the new currency.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Libra will give Facebook the opportunity to monetise another of its services, and an opportunity to diversify.  The idea that Libra is for use by the 1.7 billion people without bank accounts is also good for PR, but it is more likely that Libra will gain more users with bank accounts in developed countries more quickly.  It is also worth noting that even though the banks will not be middlemen in the use of Libra, banks will still be needed for people to use to buy Libra in the first place.

Many of us are personally unlikely to be regularly using or benefitting from the frictionless cross-border transferring of money, although this may be of real benefit to some businesses.  That said, it is thought that only 12 markets will actually be ready for Libra when it launches, and although Libra is ready to go in the US, some countries e.g. India have restrictions on the use of digital currencies.  Financial commentators have noted that Libra will also need to comply with regulatory structures in order to become a successful global currency.

Libra, however, already has the backing of the big payment and credit companies (who are partners in Libra), plus it offers the reassurance of being asset-backed and linked to other ‘real’ currency values. This may mean that (unlike Bitcoin) it appears to have a low risk for users which could fuel its rapid growth.  Easy payments globally could, therefore, have a beneficial effect for businesses and economies worldwide, if security and regulatory issues can be tackled effectively.

Libra’s introduction also comes at a time when there is a worldwide trend of decline in the use of cash, and Libra may, therefore, be well placed to jump in to fill that gap.

Each week we bring you the latest tech news and tips that may relate to your business, re-written in an techy free style.