Surveillance: A Threat to Human Rights

surveillance camerasAmnesty International issued a report warning about Facebook and Google’s surveillance practices. According to the new report, the surveillance-based business model poses “a systemic threat to human rights.” As such, Surveillance Giants provides a detailed overview of Facebook and Google’s practices that undermine the right to privacy and threaten freedoms of opinion and expression, freedom of thought, and the right to equality and non-discrimination. In turn, the report suggests that businesses have responsibility to conduct “human rights due diligence” to identify how their business models affect privacy and other freedoms.

While the digital market includes other Big Tech companies, such as Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, it is evident that Google and Facebook dominate the largest share of data processing platforms online. The ubiquity of these platforms “have become fundamental to how people engage and interact with each other.” Yet, given the extraction and analysis of people’s personal data as their primary business model, Facebook and Google monetize their customers by selling data to third-party advertisers.

In order to address the dangers of the surveillance-based business model, the authors of this report urge governments to take action by enforcing robust data protection laws and introducing regulatory measures of Big Tech. In particular, governments must pass legislation preventing these companies from requiring “consent” to data collection and processing as a condition of access to their services. Furthermore, Facebook and Google’s algorithmic systems require additional attention as they solely benefit companies’ interests, “including finely-tuned ad targeting and delivery.” Taking into account the size and reach of these platforms, Facebook and Google are endangering human rights “at a population scale.”

For more information, visit the HSDL Featured Topics on Cyber PolicyCyber Infrastructure Protection, and Electronic Surveillance. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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