Digital Britain report praises “The Geek Squad” and the “Tech Guys” but don’t the public need more assurance about services such as these?

Today’s “Digital Britain” report has an interesting paragraph on “Securing Home Networks” which says:

“In addition, the market is increasingly providing a high level of after sales support to its customers through additional assistance in relation to dealing with technical complexity – a sort of “AA breakdown” assistance for your personal networking needs. As home networks become more complex, it is legitimate to expect that these types of service will continue to grow. Services such as “the Geek Squad” from Carphone Warehouse and “Tech Guys” at PC World provide consumers with fast and effective advice on a range of issues including computer optimisation, device set-up, software installation, parental control set-up and tuition, security and software installation, back-up services and many others.”

I expressed some reservations about this when the report was introduced in the House of Lords this afternoon by Lord Stephen Carter. saying:

“I note in the report the support for the after-sales services provided by a number of computer retailers, such as the Geek Squad, the Tech Guys and so forth.  Have the Government given any thought to the personnel who visit people in their homes and put things on their computers?  What steps are being taken to ensure that those individuals are quality-assured and regulated in the same way that physical security personnel are regulated by the Security Industry Authority? “

My concern was that at present the individuals who work in such areas are unregulated, there is no agreed quyalification standard, and there is no guarantee that they are honest.  Those people who rely on such services to protect or maintain their IT equipment are the least likely individuals to know whether something adverse (such as installing a key-logger) has been done to their systems.

The Minister’s response recognised that there was an issue, although he sidestepped the point about regulation,:

“I do not know what checks and balances those operators put in place, but I will do further due diligence to find out. My noble friend raises an interesting question; as people’s domestic IT systems become more and more sophisticated—which they will—the level of complexity, and therefore the level of security and trust that people will want to have with the providers of those services, will only increase. My view is that it will be four or five years before we have a sort of AA or RAC of the IT world providing that level of assistance at scale for many homes. It is an intriguing question.”

The issue may well be worth pursuing ….

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