Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 12 December 2019

Amnesty surveillance report slams spying by Facebook and Google

Report warns monitoring poses a threat to human rights

New Amnesty International report into surveillance by social media warns human rights are being abused. Getty Images
New Amnesty International report into surveillance by social media warns human rights are being abused. Getty Images

Spying by social media giants poses a systemic threat to human rights, Amnesty International has warned in a new report.

It is calling for a radical transformation of Google and Facebook's core business model and is urging governments to offer more protection to users.

The report, entitled Surveillance Giants, says the surveillance-based business models of the tech giants is inherently incompatible with the right to privacy.

Secretary General of Amnesty International Kumi Naidoo said: “Google and Facebook dominate our modern lives – amassing unparalleled power over the digital world by harvesting and monetising the personal data of billions of people.

"Their insidious control of our digital lives undermines the very essence of privacy and is one of the defining human rights challenges of our era.

“To protect our core human values in the digital age – dignity, autonomy, privacy – there needs to be a radical overhaul of the way Big Tech operates, and to move to an internet that has human rights at its core.”

It is calling on governments to create laws to ensure media giants are prevented from making access to their service conditional on individuals “consenting” to the collection, processing or sharing of their personal data for marketing or advertising.

“Facebook and Google must not be allowed to dictate how we live online. These companies have chosen a specific surveillance-business model that impacts on privacy, freedom of expression and other human rights. The technology behind the internet is not incompatible with our rights, but the business model Facebook and Google have chosen is,” said Mr Naidoo.

“Now it is time to reclaim this vital public space for everyone rather than a few powerful unaccountable companies in Silicon Valley.

“Google and Facebook have chipped away at our privacy over time. We are now trapped. Either we must submit to this pervasive surveillance machinery – where our data is easily weaponised to manipulate and influence us – or forego the benefits of the digital world.

“We must reclaim this essential public square, so we can participate without having our rights abused.”

Facebook says it is disappointed with the report.

It said: “We respectfully disagree with your conclusion that our practices are inconsistent with human rights principles. Like many other online companies, Facebook is supported through the sale of advertising. This enables billions of people around the world to connect and express themselves, on an unprecedented scale. Amnesty International itself has benefited from this ability to connect.

“As a company, we’re committed to respecting human rights, including the right to privacy.”

Updated: November 21, 2019 05:53 PM

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