Protecting consumers in the mobile ecosystem

In the last thirty years, the market for mobile services has grown to represent more than five billion mobile consumers globally. Mobile has changed how people connect and interact with each other and access essential services such as healthcare, education, and finance. However, as more advanced and complex services are developed, the number and scope of potential threats grow.

In our Safety, Privacy and Security report, we highlight some of the main issues and challenges affecting the security of consumers and, importantly, how industry and policymakers can play their part in helping them use the internet safely and with confidence.

Children and vulnerable individuals

Mobile technology increasingly empowers children to gain better access to many of their fundamental rights set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). These include access to quality education, empowering them to voice opinions and take part in community decision-making. However, there are risks with connectivity and also bad actors who seek to exploit vulnerable user groups, including children and women, by targeting them, for example, through inappropriate contact, messages and content.

The mobile industry, alongside policymakers, educators, parents and caregivers, has a role in encouraging positive online behaviours and educating users about potential risks. Providing and signposting to information on how to use their services safely is a basic requirement for mobile operators. Many operators also work with other stakeholders to help broaden consumers’ digital skills through education and awareness programmes which aim to build “digital resilience.”

As part of our own digital skills efforts, the GSMA co-founded the EQUALS Her Digital Skills initiative with EY, ITU and W4, to design and provide access to free, gender transformative, foundational digital skills training, e-skills badges, and e-mentoring for one million women and girls by 2026.[1] As part of this work, Verizon UK, has been working with us to develop a cybersecurity curriculum and “Introduction to Cybersecurity” workshop for young women to be held simultaneously in the GSMA London offices and in Learning Centres across Lesotho, Uganda and Kenya on November 4th.

Wider industry

Other industry ecosystem players, such as device manufacturers and mobile-based app or service providers, are also encouraged to engage in initiatives to help protect consumers when using mobile devices and services and to educate them about safe behaviours and good practices so they can continue to benefit from these services safely. Mobile network operators can play a role in reminding consumers to be aware and vigilant when using those services and encourage them to use the full suite of security measures available.

Role of Governments

Governments also have a critical role to play. Last year an important milestone was achieved when, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child provided an authoritative interpretation of CRC and confirmed that children’s rights apply equally online as they do offline and that governments must support both opportunities and take steps to reduce risks.

With this confirmation comes increased optimism for change. Not only must Governments have appropriate legislation in place, but law enforcement agencies must also be equipped to investigate all aspects of online abuse. Resources and processes should exist to deter, identify and prosecute criminal behaviour and hotlines for reporting online child sexual exploitation and abuse must be in place.

Multistakeholder efforts

With the nature of digital world, all efforts will likely require global cooperation to deliver appropriate multilateral solutions.

Download the “Safety, privacy and security across the mobile ecosystem” report to learn more about some of the significant issues, and potential solutions, for consumer protection, privacy, public safety and infrastructure security.