Campaign aims to end ‘abuse’ of citizens’ personal data by tech giants

The move comes amid an ongoing bitter dispute between Australia and Facebook.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

02 Mar 2021

A campaign initiated by the Socialist group in Parliament has been launched 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.”

He added, “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.”

Tang, who chairs Parliament’s sub-committee on tax matters said, “The aim of the AdsZuck campaign is to raise awareness of the power Big Tech has over our private data online. We want to denounce Big Tech's highly profitable business model, a model that is successful at the expense of publishers and media organisations.”

“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.”

“Facebook’s calculation is simple: the longer someone stays on Facebook, the more advertising it can foist on them, and the more money the platform earns” Ismail Ertug, S&D

He added, “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 centres on 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 said that it will restore Australian news pages even though the country's Prime Minister 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.”

“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” Paul Tang, S&D

He said, “Just as in advertising every personal detail matters, in this campaign every voice matters. Every signature is a step closer to putting an end to these business models that thrive on our information.”

Further comment came from Ismail Ertug, S&D vice-president for digital Europe, who said, “Facebook’s calculation is simple: the longer someone stays on Facebook, the more advertising it can foist on them, and the more money the platform earns.”

“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 member 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.

But he warned that more must be done, adding, “The digital advertising market is now growing more than ever because of the pandemic. We want to break this model of abusing people’s personal information.”

Despite repeated attempts by this website, no one from Facebook or Google was available for comment on the campaign.

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