Online Security: Consumer Rights and Responsibility

March 11, 2017

Today, in this globalized and interconnected world, we need to work together to protect our Digital Rights. While some sectors, such as finance, have tightened up security, many are not implementing basic measures, and there is often low awareness among consumers about how to secure a device or keep information safe. When breaches do happen, consumers are often left with little or no information about what to do

Mechanisms are required to assist consumers to effectively assert and protect their rights in the digital world caused by misuse and criminal attacks. For this consumers should be fully informed about specific risks and new threats so that they can safeguard their interests in the digital market and are able to make well- informed decisions.

One of the major responsibilities in ensuring that the full array of benefits of the digital world is brought to all citizens in a fair, responsive and secure manner, is through the implementation of sufficiently effective and smart regulations that aims at empowering consumers, redefining rights and responsibilities and creating the conditions for a data-driven economy to flourish.

Digital technologies contribute to an improvement in the quality of people’s lives in many ways. They create the preconditions for expanded participation in political, economic, social and cultural life. They facilitate the free exchange of ideas including across borders and increase access to information and goods and services. However, it is important to ensure that there is a fair balance between the interests of consumers and service providers.

Focusing on online security, consumers are undergoing situations such as identity theft and identity fraud which refers to a criminal act in which one wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal information. However the usage is in a way that involves fraud or deception for economic gain. There are also cases where imposters are using internet forums to buy and sell information.

Considering the amount of data we disclose on the net, there are so many instances where we end up sharing our name, date of birth, residential address, phone/mobile numbers, family details, bank details, work address, emails, user names and other common information’s about ourselves on social media sites. A good example is having a casual conversation on Facebook, where key information if divulged that can be used by cyber criminals to hack into accounts.

Sometimes consumers may receive emails, Facebook requests or postal mails which may ask for bank details or pin number. At times cyber criminals may pose as an official of an overseas firm which offers a job and requires one’s personal details. These companies advertising job vacancies online may also require online application that includes your personal details. These information that can very well be stolen and misused by cyber criminals.  

It is therefore crucial to understand internet rights and responsibilities of consumers to mitigate risks to better protect digital consumers. Consumers have the rights to:

  • Own their own identity;
  • Privacy and protection against unauthorized use of personal information
  • Safety when online
  • Redress

Further to above, Consumer responsibilities include-

  • Protection of digital identity from unauthorized use
  • Responsible for all actions taken with their digital identity
  • Taking appropriate action as soon as possible after discovering or suspecting that their digital identity has been compromised or if you discover that they lost control of the storage and/or transmission of unlawful material

As more people bank and shop online, use internet for their work, education and business, internet security is more important. There are number of precautions we can take to stay safer online such as: Use strong passwords; Look out for strange mails; Beware of email attachments; Watch how much you share online; Be careful about what (and where) you click; Secure your phone; Do not keep sensitive information on your phone; Think before you download apps; Keep your technology up to date.

By following the above security tips you can help protect your personal information from falling into the wrong hands. A concerted effort is needed to make sure data is kept safe and secure and to help consumers know which services they can trust.

The Council will continue to advise consumers on their rights and responsibilities. If consumers need Councils assistance then they can visit our offices in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa or call our National Consumers Helpline on toll free number 155 for advice.