Taming Tech Giants: Campaign Aims to End ‘Abuse of Citizens’ Personal Data

Written by | Saturday, March 6th, 2021

Amid an ongoing bitter dispute between Australia and Facebook, the Socialist group in the European Parliament has launched a campaign which aims to raise awareness of the “power” big tech has over online private data. As part of the initiative, the public is being urged to sign a petition to stop the use of personalised advertising. Dutch S&D deputy Paul Tang, initiator of the so-called ‘AdsZuck’ campaign, said, “We want big tech companies to understand that our private data is not a product.” Tang, who chairs Parliament’s sub-committee on tax matters said, warns that “for far too long these companies have been making billions in profits by selling data on our private feelings to third parties. When Facebook asks you ‘What’s on your mind?’, don’t be fooled – they already know. And this must stop.”
“We also call on all users of the internet to sign a petition to stop the use of personalised advertising, which infringes people’s online privacy. An alternative model of advertising must be implemented,” adds the Dutch politician. “In light of recent developments in Australia, we need to look at a more fundamental approach to fixing the imbalance of market power between publishers and platforms. This is precisely why we are starting this campaign. And to be successful, we need people to get involved.” The Australia dispute revolves around a planned law in the country that would require Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to reach deals to pay news outlets whose links drive traffic to their platforms or agree on a price through arbitration. Facebook initially responded to the new Australian law by saying it would block news content from being read and shared in its news feed in Australia.
European publishers along with British and Canadian politicians described Facebook’s move as an attempt to put pressure on governments that might consider similar measures to Australia. Facebook has since pledged to restore Australian news pages even though the country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said it will press ahead with the legislation. Tang said that through the petition and the campaign “we want to spread the word that there is an alternative to companies selling our personal data online and that this alternative must be sought out and implemented.” Further comment came from Ismail Ertug, S&D vice-president for digital Europe, who said, “polarising content is particularly good at keeping people glued to the screen. We want to break this circle of hate, agitation and disinformation.” The German MEP said the EU’s Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act were a “good step in the right direction”, adding that what is illegal offline should also be illegal online.

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