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We’re honoured to be one of the founding members of the Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA), a new UK industry body dedicated to tackling online safety. 

The group brings together advisory bodies and tech companies in a shared goal of making the internet safer and hopes to provide a voice of hope by offering solutions to address key issues in a complex debate so often focused on what can’t be done.

With support from the National Crime Agency, GCHQ, the Home Office, NSPCC, the group will serve as a forum for companies working on potential solutions and create collective influence on policy, regulation and broader support for the sector. 

Our Scotland Lead, Gordon Scobbie, sits on the board on behalf of Yoti and has long been committed to safeguarding and online safety issues. After operating at every level in UK policing from constable to chief officer, he saw first-hand the scale of online grooming and sexual abuse. He now steers our work with the Scottish Improvement Service and is Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees on the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF). 

We caught up with Gordon to hear about what this means for the future of online safety. 

 

How did OSTIA come about?  

The group came out of a 2019 roundtable event that explored online harms, run by Edinburgh-based security firm Cyan Forensics and public sector startup body Public, and chaired by Joanna Shields.  We collectively realised that we had broad agreement between those attending the roundtable that there was a need for smaller technology companies involved in online safety to have a louder voice and the best way to achieve this would be to act collaboratively and collectively.  Several members of this initial roundtable session continued this work and OSTIA was born, being launched in March 2020.

 

What does OSTIA hope to achieve? 

We are committed to making the internet a safer place to be and believe that the tech industry has a lot to offer right now to get us closer to that goal. The UK is a world leader when it comes to innovative technology in this space, and with many small, agile companies at the forefront. Through our collective voice, we want to make sure solutions are known and deployed to help keep people safe online. Our involvement with DCMS has been really helpful in raising awareness of the availability of innovative safety tech and through engagement with regulators such as OFCOM. We’re raising greater awareness in this area of what we are currently capable of implementing, and where this is (and is not) being actively deployed.

What perspective or expertise do you add to the group?  

My background spans 33 years in the UK police force, and in the later stages of my career, I was the National Chief Police Lead for social media and online engagement. I’ve spent the last 8 years in the commercial world, working for technology companies spanning global corporations to smaller start ups. I have a solid understanding of how technology can help keep people safe online and know firsthand the ways it could be used to support law enforcement in the difficult job they have.

 

What role can Yoti play?   

We are a company that puts privacy, consent and data security at the heart of everything we do and we believe technology holds the key to protecting young and vulnerable online. Our digital identity app and age estimation technology are incredible tools that are already being used to keep communities safe on social media, dating sites and sharing economy platforms. Through OSTIA, we hope to further the discussion around online safety with our knowledge in the space and provide practical solutions that can be put into place today to mitigate some of the harms which exist online. Alongside other industry leaders and experts, we’re excited to provide answers to the often unanswered question of what can we do to protect people online. In many cases, the technology has been built. It’s time to use it.