Trust in an Increasingly Connected World

This year at Mobile World Congress, I participated in two formal discussions. I spoke alongside a panel of experts thinking about mobile and data which was hosted by the GSMA. I was also invited to a Fireside Chat hosted by the IAB’s Randall Rothenberg, where we talked about many issues facing the mobile industry in the context of the internet of things.

At Mozilla, user transparency and control is a core part of our mission. I’ve personally written about how promoting transparency and user control can help us as an industry earn user trust.

In the GSMA panel, we discussed what a user-centered take on data would be in a world where all users are connected through a myriad of devices. It was clear from our discussion that as more devices become networked, user transparency and control remain a paramount concern if users are to trust the technology. These principles can sometimes take a back seat to other product features, as new devices, apps and services collect and transmit data without any transparency or control given to the users of those devices. As we continue to approach a world where more and more devices transmit data, everyone in the development chain, from hardware providers to app developers, will need to do a better job creating transparency for users and enabling controls over the transmission user data. We also touched on the fact that, while privacy notices continue to be an important means by which to provide transparency, we as an industry must innovate and be creative around how to provide information and choices to users in context that allow those users to have better control over their data.

During the IAB session we talked about privacy related to mobile devices as well as the concerns around the future of the “internet” in the context of the internet of things. We recognized that we have an opportunity to engage users in the discussion of the value exchange with respect to advertising on mobile in a way that the industry didn’t effectively do on desktop.  Our discussions also revealed concerns around walled gardens and limits on interoperability and competition if only a handful of companies control the market. This is a hard issue.  This discussion re-affirmed what we know: openness and interoperability will deliver the most value for users and every entity in the ecosystem. In this way, Firefox OS stands for more than just an open operating system – it represents a set of ideals we think are important to the internet of things at its core. If we embrace the web’s inherent architecture and the openness it brings at a platform level, it can be hard to create a walled garden.

We believe that conversations like these truly help us as an industry move forward. What was clear through my discussions is that, while the world is changing and new technologies emerge, the core beliefs that we hold at Mozilla, including those around user control and open and interoperable ecosystems, remain timely and relevant. User trust and open ecosystems remain key in the future of mobile, wherever it may lead.