Facebook and Google's persistent monitoring of billions of people around the world threaten human rights and free expression, says Amnesty International. In a new report, NGO argues that companies must change their business model and stop relying on people's data.
The Internet is a necessary part of daily life for people all over the world. The "big five" technology companies – Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebook – dominate almost all online services. Facebook and Google are especially powerful when it comes to expression and freedom of speech ̵
The report points out that Google now controls 90 percent of search engine usage worldwide, while a third of the globe uses a Facebook-owned service every day. "Billions of people have no meaningful choice but to access this public space on terms dictated by Facebook and Google," said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
The report comes amid increasing government scrutiny of major technology companies. Facebook is currently being investigated for allegedly violating user privacy, and social network data has been used to manipulate choices. Google is facing inquiries about data collection policies. And both companies are being investigated about how their allegedly competitive business practices may have affected consumers.
"This is not the Internet people signed up for," Naidoo said. The companies have had people rely on their services and now monitor every message and search. “We are now trapped. Either we have to submit to this pervasive surveillance machinery – where our data can be easily armed to manipulate and influence us – or give up the benefits of the digital world. "
In a statement sent to The Verge a Google spokesperson said the company is working to give people more control over their data." We acknowledge that people trust us with their information and that we have a responsibility to protect it, "they said." Over the last 18 months, we have made significant changes and built tools to give people more control over their information. "
According to Amnesty, part of the problem is that technology companies have grown too large." The dominance of the companies' platforms means that it is now virtually impossible to engage on the Internet without "consent" to their surveillance-based business model, "states in The decisions these companies make – to regulate speech, gather people's health information or leave politicians in ads – are known around the world.
In an effort to fight the idea of Facebook breaking up , Mark Zuckerberg has promoted the idea that Facebook is moving toward more privacy and data security, while not Chinese competitors. "Our services like WhatsApp are used by protesters and activists everywhere because of strong encryption and privacy protection," he said during a speech at Georgetown University last month. "On TikTok, the Chinese app, mentions of the same protests are also mentioned here in the United States. Is the Internet we want?
But a better solution, according to Amnesty International, is to change the business model. As long as technology companies rely on ads for to make money, user data would be their favorite currency. The report did not offer an alternative revenue strategy that would work better – but it could include subscriptions, as Center for Humane Technology's Tristan Harris has previously suggested.
A Facebook spokesperson "Our business model is how groups like Amnesty International – currently running ads on Facebook – reach out to supporters, raise money and promote the mission," they added.
The second part of the solution is more regulation. The report asked governments to enact new data privacy laws and enforce those that currently exist. "Now is the time to recover this important public space for everyone rather than a few powerful, uncontrollable companies in Silicon Valley, "Naidoo said.