Paul Clarke has pointed me to a recent piece of research (PDF) undertaken by Ctrl Shift for Consumer Focus. It’s called Digital Downsides, and considers ways in which new technologies and channel shift can harm the interests of consumers.

The report is a good assessment of some of the potential downsides of digital development, arranged in eight themes and with links to relevant articles and media coverage:

  1. privacy in a surveillance society;
  2. digital identity;
  3. information access and trustworthiness;
  4. the workings of e‐commerce;
  5. rights and responsibilities;
  6. living virtually;
  7. exercise of power; and
  8. changing technologies.

Although the report is focused on consumer issues, many of these are closely linked to political and civic issues – the downsides the report identifies include deliberately misleading information being provided online, market dominance and the weakening of faith in society’s common rules.

My only criticism of the report would be that, perhaps because of the breadth of the issues it handles, it struggles to reach conclusions that are more than “further research and thinking will be needed”. It would be interesting to see the report being taken up by a political party or think tank and turned into a set of policy actions (or inactions) with a little more snap.

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