Global human rights watchdog Amnesty International has penned a scathing report with Google and Facebook at the subject of the piece.

The report details just how much power the two firms have, particularly as relates to surveillance of ordinary folks.

“The rise of the surveillance-based business model has resulted in two companies – Google and Facebook – controlling an architecture of surveillance that has no basis for comparison in human history. This system spans entire continents and touches at least a third of the world’s population. In its current form, the surveillance-based business model is incompatible with the right to privacy and poses a serious threat to a range of other human rights,” Amnesty International writes.

As you are no doubt aware, Facebook and Google make the bulk of their money through advertising. Given the sheer amount of information gathered by these two firms, its data is not only of interest to advertisers with law enforcement also taking an interest.

The report goes into great detail tracking how Facebook and Google have shifted their business models and become the first names in advertising the world over.

This, says Amnesty International, presents a problem because in order for folks to enjoy their rights online, they first have to agree to Facebook and Google tracking them around the web.

“The surveillance-based business model of Facebook and Google is inherently incompatible with the right to privacy and poses a threat to a range of other rights including freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of thought, and the right to equality and non-discrimination,” Amnesty International wrote.

This is not especially true though. There is no sign on my browser stating I must use Facebook or Google, in fact, a number of developers have created tools that stop those firms from following you around the web even if you do use them.

This is a sentiment echoed by Facebook.

“First, it is important to note that no one is obliged to sign up for Facebook. The decision to use our family of apps is entirely voluntary and personal. 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 and interception of communications defining the kind of arbitrary interference with home, correspondence, or family life envisaged under article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Facebook wrote in a statement to Amnesty International.

And that’s the important point there – unlike government, Facebook and Google outline exactly what data it collects from users.

Is the amount of data they have on us worrying? Yes it is and there should be better protections on said data so as to avoid ne’er-do-wells such as Cambridge Analytica cannot abuse the power that data gives.

Amnesty International has called on governments to place more regulatory restrictions on tech firms and for tech firms to stop lobbying to ease restrictions.

This is happening in some parts of the world where politicians have noted the power the likes of Facebook and Google have but it’s a process that will take time to resolve.

To play devil’s advocate for one moment – sure, Facebook and Google have a lot of data that is used to target advertising at us but haven’t we also reaped the benefits?

As much as I hate being tracked around the web, I enjoy being able to talk to my uncle half-way around the world who I would only otherwise see when a tragedy occurs.

Do I hate seeing the same advertising as I go from site to site? Yes absolutely but I also like knowing when a good deal is available.

Has a genocide taken place because Facebook exists? Yes it has but it’s important to know that Facebook has also made efforts to prevent something like that from happening again.

Facebook and Google have changed our world, that much is certain. Determining whether those firms have done something good or bad though, well, that’s a debate one report isn’t going to end.

You can read Amnesty International’s report, in full, here.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]