Online safety is a responsibility for all
Internet providers, internet operators, governments and the consumers themselves are all responsible for a safe and secure internet.
The discussion on securing citizens and their data online was the focus of an afternoon panel event at the Asia Pacific Telecommunity forum, held over the week at T.A.T.T.E.
Representatives of the private sector, the Australian government and the Internet Society Asia Pacific bureau gathered to discuss their opinions on where responsibility lies.
Naveed Haq from the Internet Society said with growing internet usage connecting our devices, and powering our homes, consumers must be watchful of growing risks.
“Internet of Things devices already outnumber the global population, and by 2020 they will be 2.5x the global population,” he said.
Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the way computers, and therefore the internet has been embedded into everyday devices, like our cars, refrigerators, home security systems and of course, our phones.
Mr Haq said while we might be happy our devices can think for us, we have to be careful of the broader implications.
More connection to the web means more risk of corruption from spam, malware or viruses.
“Data is a great organisational asset,” he said, “but it can also be a burden.”
Of course, Samoa is not quite ready to launch into “smart homes” running on the internet of things without a 5G network, said panel moderator Gisa Fuatai Purcell.
“But security will continue to be a challenge.”
Rita Eteuati is the operations manager of Computer Systems Limited (C.S.L), one of Samoa’s five internet service providers.
She said once upon a time, ISPs could turn away from providing security, by claiming their role was only to provide the internet service. Today, as “gatekeepers” of the internet, Ms Eteuati recognises that is no longer true.
“The internet and mobile phones have brought benefits to the Pacific community,” she said.
“But at the same time, the same technology requires increased and constantly changing security measures to protect from harmful intrusions than can affect businesses, communities and children
Digicel’s chief executive officer Farid Mohammed said his company complies with all local regulations and laws because of a desire to protect all consumers.
“We care deeply about the welfare of our customers,” Mr Mohammed said.
Not only that, but as an investor in Samoa, it makes sense to care about the people and prosperity of the nation, he said.
While Digicel has made every effort and is compliant with Samoan regulations and law, websites like social media and streaming services which do collect consumer data are not regulated and often operate “beyond the reach of the law.”
“We are licensed, and so if we do something that breaches that license, we’ll face consequences,” Mr Mohammed explained.
“In this part of the world, laws and regulatory frameworks have not kept pace with development of social media and over-the-top operators.”