Amnesty International joined the ranks of Facebook and Google critics this week, saying that both companies have “surveillance-based business models” that threaten human rights and undermine privacy. The human rights organization also called on governments to enact and enforce laws that restrict the amount of personal data that companies collect.
Amnesty International’s recommendations, which were published in a 60-page report entitled Surveillance Giants also propose laws that allow users to avoid tracking by advertisers and third parties. The organization urged Facebook and Google to correct any human rights abuse and change their business models.
“Google and Facebook destroyed our privacy over time. We are now trapped,” Amnesty International Secretary General Kumi Naidoo said in a statement. “Or we must submit to this generalized surveillance machinery, where our data is easily used to manipulate us and influence us or we renounce the benefits of the digital world. This can never be a legitimate option.”
The scathing report on the two giants of Silicon Valley and their respective business models comes at a time when politicians, activists and even the founders of technology companies call for the breakup of big technology companies, arguing that they have become too powerful . Facebook and Google face an antitrust investigation of several state attorney generals . The United States Department of Justice is investigating how online platforms achieve market power. Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, also asked governments to divide Amazon, Google and Facebook .
At the center of the debate are the piles of data that Facebook and Google collect over billions of people who use their services. The data allows companies to accurately target users with ads based on their interests, shopping habits and other features.
Facebook and Google, which received a summary of the AI report, but did not show the full document until the day of its publication, rejected the findings, Amnesty International said. In a letter published in the report, Facebook said advertising dollars fund a platform that gives billions of people a way to communicate and convey their thoughts. The company did not agree with the characterization of the report of its business model as “surveillance”, arguing that people are not required to register on the social network.
“Our business model is what allows us to offer an important service where people can exercise fundamental human rights: have a voice (freedom of expression) and be able to connect,” said Steve Satterfield, director of privacy and public policy at Facebook, in the letter.
In response to a request for comments from CNET, Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman, said the company’s business model is “how groups like Amnesty International, which currently publish ads on Facebook, reach out to their followers, raise money and move on in his mission. ”
Google did not respond to a request for comments. Amnesty International said he spoke with senior Google officials, who questioned the findings of the report.
In the report, Amnesty International says that Facebook and Google have become crucial in the way many people communicate with friends and family, as well as to find information of all kinds. Avoiding these services is not optional for most people.
The report describes the privacy scandals that both companies have faced over the years, and notes how they are linked to data collection by technology giants. This year, revelations emerged that Google’s Nest Secure home security system contained a hidden microphone, but the company did not tell its customers. Facebook has been criticized for privacy concerns after the Cambridge Analytica political consultant, who worked on the Donald Trump presidential campaign, collected data from up to 87 million Facebook users without their consent. After that scandal, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Facebook with a record US $ 5,000 million.
At the same time, law enforcement and other government agencies are trying to gain access to the data of Facebook and Google users, and ad targeting can be used to discriminate against certain users, according to the report.
Ryan Edwards has been working as a freelancer for nearly a decade having published in many leading publications including, Tech Crunch, Digg, Yahoo and many others. When not reporting about emerging technology, Ryan spends his time surfing, snowboarding and making beer.