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‘A Damning Indictment’: Global Poll Shows 71% Support Regulation of Tech Giants to Protect Data Privacy

In a new poll released by Amnesty International, 71% of respondents expressed fear over how Big Tech is taking and using their personal data. (Photo: Flickr/GostGo/cc)

By Andrea Germanos | Common Dreams

If you’re worried about how big technology companies are storing and using your personal data, you’re far from alone, according to a new poll out Wednesday from Amnesty International.

The survey of 10,000 people in nine countries, conducted by YouGov, revealed that 71% of respondents expressed fear over how Big Tech is taking and using their data. The sentiment was expressed most acutely in Brazil, where 89 percent said they were worried about the use of their personal data by tech companies. India and the United States followed, where the worry was expressed by 71 percent and 70 percent respectively.

Fears of violations of privacy are driving their concerns, said 62 percent of respondents. Fifty-nine percent, meanwhile, said they don’t feel in control over how technology companies share user data with third parties like advertisers.

“The poll results are stark and consistent—a clear majority of people are worried about the power Big Tech has over their lives,” said Amnesty Tech director Tanya O’Carroll.

The findings were released less than two weeks after an Amnesty report said that Facebook and Google have a “surveillance-based business model” that threatens users’ human rights, including the right to privacy, bolstering the rights organization’s call for the era of self-regulation by Big Tech to come to an end.

A strong majority—77%—also said that tech companies creating detailed profiles about users and selling access to those profiles to third-parties including advertisers is a problem.

In the United States, 75% of respondents said that profile selling was a problem, but it was felt even more strongly in France (77%), India (77.8%), South Africa (79.8%), and Brazil (87%).

The overall majority of those who said online profiling was a problem—59%—said that it is an invasion of privacy. And more than half—53%—said profiling could be used to unfairly influence people through ads or political messages. Another concern expressed by 52% was that profiling could be used, without user knowledge, to control the information and media people see.

Seventy-three percent of respondents, which also included people in Denmark, Egypt, Germany, and Norway, said they want their governments to do more to regulate Big Tech. That includes nearly 66% of respondents in the U.S. who want such government action.

Only 16 percent of respondents overall said they did not want their governments to do more to regulate large technology companies.

“People are hankering for governments to do more to regulate these corporate giants,” said O’Carroll.

The poll findings, she continued, offer “a damning indictment of how Big Tech companies harvest and use our personal data. People want to see an end to tech companies trampling over our right to privacy.”

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As New Privacy Rules Hit Europe, Google and Facebook Hit With $8.8 Billion in Lawsuits

Austrian attorney and privacy activist Max Schrems has filed complaints against Google, Facebook, and two Facebook affiliates for forcing users to consent to sharing their private data.

By Jake Johnson & Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams

Accusing Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, and Instagram of “intentionally” violating Europe’s strict new privacy rules that officially went into effect on Friday, Austrian lawyer and privacy activist Max Schrems filed four lawsuits against the tech companies arguing they are still “coercing users into sharing personal data” despite rolling out new policies ostensibly aimed at complying with the new regulations.

Titled the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the new rules require companies to explicitly and clearly request consent from users before mining their data, and Schrems argues in his complaints—which seek fines totaling $8.8 billion—that Google, Facebook, and the Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp are still utilizing “forced consent” strategies to extract users’ data when “the law requires that users be given a free choice unless a consent is strictly necessary for provision of the service,” TechCrunch explains.

“It’s simple: Anything strictly necessary for a service does not need consent boxes anymore. For everything else users must have a real choice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,'” Schrems wrote in a statement. “Facebook has even blocked accounts of users who have not given consent. In the end users only had the choice to delete the account or hit the ‘agree’-button—that’s not a free choice.”

While Facebook—which is currently embroiled in international controversy following the Cambridge Analytica scandal—insists that its new policies are in compliance with Europe’s new regulatory framework, Schrems argues that Facebook and Google aren’t even attempting to follow the new law.

“They totally know that it’s going to be a violation, they don’t even try to hide it,” Schrems told the Financial Times.

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