Amnesty International issued a shocking indictment of world-dominant Internet companies, arguing in a new report that Google and Facebook should be forced to give up what they call their tracking-based business model because it is based on human rights abuse.
In the 60-page report which was published on Thursday, the London-based global rights group said: “The business model of what it calls the ‘Surveillance Giants’ is inherently incompatible with the right to privacy.”
The group further said: “Google and Facebook likewise threaten a range of other rights, including freedom expression and the right to equality and non-discrimination”.
The report said the company’s practice of clearing up personal information to feed ad groups constituted an unprecedented attack on privacy rights.
It says “the companies force people to make a Faustian bargain to share their data to access Google and Facebook services that have grown to dominate the global public square”.
The report said: “This ubiquitous surveillance has undermined the very essence of the right to privacy”. Further, it added, “The companies’ use of algorithmic systems to create and infer detailed profiles on people interferes with our ability to shape our own identities within a private sphere”.
Amnesty called on governments to ensure by law that people’s rights are not pursued by advertisers or other third parties. It called the existing rules and corporate privacy safeguards inadequate.
In a written five-page response to the report, Facebook did not agree with its conclusion that the company’s business practices were contrary to human rights principles.
Similarly, Facebook Public Policy Director Steve Satterfield disputed that the social media behemoth business model is “surveillance-based” and noted that users sign up for the service voluntarily, which is nominally free, although the data collected is used to sell ads.
The letter states “A person’s choice to use Facebook’s services, and the way we collect, receive or use data, all clearly disclosed and acknowledged by users cannot meaningfully be likened to the involuntary (and often unlawful) government surveillance described in international human rights law”.
Google did not provide a post-registration response to the report, disputing its findings. Amnesty said the company provided input and publicly available documents.