In a newly published report, Amnesty International has zeroed in on tech giant Facebook and Google’s policies, concluding that they should be forced to ditch what it calls a “surveillance–based business model” which, it argues, is behind human rights violations.
"Despite the real value of the services they provide, Google and Facebook's platforms come at a systemic cost", the NGO said in the 60-page document published on Thursday, adding that when stockpiling personal information for numerous advertisements, the tech titans are assaulting privacy rights.
'Faustian Bargains' to Better Control Digital Lives
Amnesty specifically brought up the practice of “Faustian bargains", whereby they get access to Google and Facebook services only provided they share their personal details with the umbrella companies that further use them to satisfy advertisers’ growing appetites. According to the human rights watchdog, the tech giants have established “near-total dominance over the primary channels through which people connect and engage with the online world".
Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's secretary general, called the scheme an “insidious control of our digital lives" that “undermines the very essence of privacy” and is one of the most crucial “human rights challenges of our era". Amnesty added that other human rights, like freedom of expression and the right to non-discrimination, are also in jeopardy, at the hands of Facebook and Google.
Per Amnesty, it is governments that are obliged to counter the negative implications of private use of internet services, with the group acknowledging that for the past two decades, “technology companies have been largely left to self-regulate".
In its 5-page response to the report, Facebook has disputed Amnesty International’s findings, with Steve Satterfield, who is in charge of public policy at the company, dismissing the accusations. He noted users sign up voluntarily for the service and are in no way illegally lured into sharing their personal details.
Google for its part also rejected the human rights group’s findings.
In the most recent data scandal-related development, Google joined Twitter in a crackdown on political advertisers, banning them from targeting voters, to provide increased transparency of election adverts and hence, trust in electoral processes across the world.
Google’s move comes amid respective pressure exerted on Facebook after the tech giant decided to exempt politicians’ ads from its sweeping ban on adverts that contain “deceptive false or misleading content". Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg argues this will celebrate free competition between various political forces some of which are never covered in the mass media.
Facebook has in recent years been embroiled in a whole array of scandals, the largest one being the Cambridge Analytica row. The company was ordered to pay five billion dollars over multiple privacy violations, while management opted to restrict software developers’ access to user data following a report that the political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, had harvested the private data on as many as 87 million users.