A new study finds most people fear what Google and Facebook knows about them, and how it’s influencing elections.
The disturbing findings, from an International survey of more than 9000 people in nine countries, have been described as a “damning indictment of how big tech companies harvest and use our personal data”.
The poll results also arrive amid growing calls for the Morrison Government to respond to the report into digital platforms, released five months ago, and as legal experts described Australia’s laws as “out of date” and unable to tackle new privacy threats.
The new study, conducted by YouGov in countries including the US, France and Germany, found 73 per cent of respondents want governments to “do more to regulate technology companies’ control over people’s lives online,” and almost a third were “very worried” about tech giants harvesting and using their personal information.
Privacy concerns and a lack of control over their own information rated as the highest fear for respondents, but more than half also expressed concern that profiles created by social media and internet companies could be used “to unfairly influence” elections.
Respondents in America, where the 2020 presidential race is underway, were even more concerned about the effect of political advertising online, with six in 10 worried that it could influence the outcome of the election.
Amnesty Tech director Tanya O’Carroll said the study delivered a damning message to tech giants and regulators alike, proving that everyday tech users were “hankering for governments to do more to regulate these corporate giants”. “Scandals like the Cambridge illicit harvesting of millions of people’s personal data have seriously damaged public trust in tech companies,” she said.
“Governments need to take action on the manipulation of targeted online political advertising. Our poll shows that people simply don’t trust big tech to determine the terms of political debate.”