Raising the Standard

Blog Post
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March 23, 2018

Today consumers are faced with a barrage of marketing for new devices, many of which include the buzzworthy term “Internet of Things” (IoT). As we invite more devices into our homes that can connect to the internet, whether or not it makes a lot of sense from the outset (we see you, internet-connected toaster!), we’re also inviting into our homes more devices that are vulnerable to hacking and collecting and sharing our private data in ways that we don’t understand. It is in the best interests of both companies and consumers to ensure that the items coming to the market, and the items that we bring into our homes, follow security best practices. At OTI, we believe it is vital that companies build top-of-the-line security features into their products, and that consumers have a way to assess the security features of the devices they want to purchase. That’s why we’re excited to announce the launch of our new “Raising the Standard” project.

Raising the Standard is focused on educating consumers and companies about the Digital Standard, an open-source testing regimen created to evaluate the privacy and security of network-connected consumer devices. We will be spending the coming year engaging with stakeholders in both the corporate and civil society communities to familiarize them with this new tool, outline the requirements of the Standard, and educate them on ways they can use it to make or advocate for products with greater security and privacy. Consumer Reports will begin to incorporate the Digital Standard in their product evaluations, which will give consumers and civil society a better way to evaluate not only the product’s functions, but also the company’s commitment to privacy and security.

As we prepare to move into the next phase of our research, convening private sector and civil society stakeholders to talk about the Digital Standard and encourage them to provide feedback on the Standard itself, the first product of our project has just been released. This four-page explainer serves as an introduction to both Raising the Standard and the Digital Standard itself. It provides  an introduction to the eight themes that OTI has used to sort the individual tests from the Standard. The Digital Standard is organized as a testing tool, with multiple assessment indicators, but for the purposes of stakeholder education it made sense to move some of the tests into more thematic categories. We hope the explainer will provide an overview of our project and the Standard.

In the coming weeks, OTI plans to continue developing resources related to the Digital Standard. We plan to release more detailed descriptions of each of the eight themes and provide helpful guidance on how companies can think about incorporating these important security best practices into their products and help them understand how the Digital Standard will assess these indicators.

Finally, later in the year the Raising the Standard team will be traveling around the United States to cities with large concentrations of companies that manufacture these types of software and devices. We’re hoping to bring the campaign to their doors and discuss ways that the Standard may help them improve and distinguish their products by enhancing their safety and security.

The Digital Standard is a living document, and it is being updated by a coalition of organizations as the methodology is tested on current products. That’s why throughout all of our activities we will also be taking feedback on ways the Standard could be improved or modified and conveying what we learn to the coalition developing the Standard.

We’ll be updating the community on our activities as we release more briefings and plan our city trips, so keep an eye on this space. If you want to learn more about the Digital Standard, arrange to meet with our team, or offer your thoughts, please reach out to wilson@opentechinstitute.org and ross@opentechinstitute.org.

Related Topics
Consumer Privacy