NUS to use Ethical Digital Charter to regulate data collection from new app

Concrete can exclusively reveal the The National Union of Students (NUS) are working on an Ethical Digital Charter to guide the use of their new app TOTUM.

NUS will unveil TOTUM, a new digitally revamped app and card to replace the NUS extra card during freshers’ week.

In the wake of the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandals Ali Milani, Vice President of Union Development at the NUS told Concrete the NUS hope to coin the term ‘Ethical Digital Charter’ to “get the digital world to understand that it’s not free from social responsibility.”

Ali Milani told Concrete “We really saw that students were looking for a way to talk to each other, talk to others, to connect”. He continued, “It’s an entirely new offer that changes the entire game of a student’s life.”

According to Milani, the NUS “will never sell student data.” Ali Milani told Concrete at the Amnesty International/ NUS Student Media Summit, “It won’t harness individual data so we won’t know where you are, what you’ve spent, individually.” However, while not storing individuals’ data it will observe and analyse students’ overall behaviour.

Milani admits “It won’t be perfect” but “this is an area in which the conversation will continue to develop”.

The NUS is implementing ‘calming technology’ to give users the choice of how much engagement they want with the app as it allows users to control notification settings.

Alongside the card, which will continue to offer local and national discounts, the app will provide a way for student unions, societies, sports clubs, and student media to keep in touch with their members.

Events and campaigns will show up as tabs on the homepage alongside reminders of discounts around your location. If you only want to receive notifications of events and activities and not the NUS’ assortment of discounts you don’t have to buy a TOTUM card, but the NUS recommends a combination of the two.

To entice a higher number of international students the NUS will continue its partnership with the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) as well as providing financial services with TOTUM. Ali Milani believes TOTUM will be “the passport to student life”.

The app will be available on Android and Apple on 13th September. Students with an NUS extra can switch to TOTUM at no extra cost.

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Chris Matthews

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January 2022
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