Can Facebook really threaten Google in search

Amnesty International reportBusiness models from Google and Facebook threaten human rights

In the recently published English-language report “Surveillance Giants”, Amnesty International takes a look at the two largest Internet companies in the world: Facebook and Google. The human rights organization comes to the conclusion that the Internet companies have to radically change their business models of unrestricted surveillance and data exploitation, since they are incompatible with the right to privacy and informational self-determination.

Facebook and Google dominate the market in social media, messengers, search, video, browsers, mobile platforms and advertising, according to the 51-page report. The dominance leads to the fact that the use of the company is no longer optional, but a condition for participation in social life. The use of the group's products resulted in ubiquitous surveillance.

Google and Facebook violate three interconnected concepts of privacy: on the one hand, the freedom that no one intrudes into our private life, second, the right to control information about ourselves and, third, the right to a space in which we can freely express our identities.

Private surveillance regime without public control

Markus Beeko, Secretary General of Amnesty International in Germany, criticizes: “While international law and constitutions guarantee elementary human rights, regulate state authorities and subject them to the rule of law, these corporations have created a private surveillance regime that is largely beyond independent public control. "

A digital infrastructure and services are needed that respect and protect people's self-determination, privacy and autonomy. The EU and the German federal government are therefore called upon to create the rule of law in order to preserve the basic and human rights of future generations in a digital world.

Data depth uses state monitors

In a separate, unfortunately somewhat short, sub-item, Amnesty also analyzes that the data collections of the Internet companies can also be used by state monitors. It is much more difficult for states to obtain the data depth about people that the Internet companies would hold. That is why state players are increasingly trying to gain access to this data.

It is therefore correct that the corporations rely on encryption, but these measures do not address the underlying problem, which is that the surveillance-based business model offers incentives for large-scale data collection and processing in a way that the possibilities of government surveillance enormously expand.

Influencing opinion and discriminating against content

In addition, there are other threats to human rights that could arise from algorithms. Amnesty explicitly mentions the human rights of privacy, freedom of expression, equality and non-discrimination.

In addition, the two Internet giants could increasingly influence the opinions and thoughts of their users via the algorithms they use, shape and modify them. This could affect the ability of humans to make autonomous decisions. There is a high risk that companies could violate the human rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion as well as freedom of expression and opinion.

The algorithms of the platforms would on the one hand privilege harmful content - here Amnesty explicitly refers to YouTube - and on the other hand they lead to discrimination by suppressing certain forms of content, such as that of minorities such as LGBTI people.

The report is a real all-rounder: It also addresses the problems that arise from market dominance. Amnesty includes, among other things, a lack of accountability, but also strong lobbying activities and influence on politics. The latter is now required to act.

"Put an end to uncontrolled surveillance capitalism"

The new Amnesty report “Surveillance Giants” shows that the systematic, comprehensive and permanent exploitation of the data of millions of people by Facebook and Google requires rapid political action: “Just as governments must guarantee the people's rights to food, clothing and shelter asked them here, too, to put an end to uncontrolled surveillance capitalism, ”said Beeko. "As a first step, legislators should prohibit companies from making access to their services dependent on whether users 'consent' to the collection and use of their personal information for advertising purposes."

This is just one of the many demands and recommendations that Amnesty makes at the end of the report. The demands include not only strict data protection laws, a data-sparing role model function of the state, educational programs, effective investigations of corporations and laws that question or prevent the business models of surveillance capitalism.

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About the author

Markus Reuter

Markus Reuter deals with the topics of digital rights, hate speech & censorship, fake news & social bots, right-wing extremists online, video surveillance, basic and civil rights and social movements. At netzpolitik.org since March 2016 as an editor. He can be reached at markus.reuter | ett | netzpolitik.org and on Twitter @markusreuter_
Published 11/21/2019 at 6:00 AM