Tech giants cry crocodile tears over our privacy

Transcript of above article  from Daily Telegraph 4th December 2018

Sorin Toma is director, Australian Cyber Security Forum

Tech giants cry crocodile tears over our privacy

Hypocrisy, thy name is Amazon. And Facebook. And Google.

These online giants op­erate under one business model: gather as much information as possible about individual users using sophisticated algorithms and on-sell that information to advertisers. In other words, online users – you and me – are the cash cows these mega­ corporations milk every day.

So it’s hard to stomach when Ama­ zon, Facebook and Google oppose the introduction of a new law to allow the Federal Police to obtain ‘warrant s’ to appropriate the online communications of suspected paedophiles and terrorists because it would make users ‘less safe online’.

Prepared by their industry group, Amazon, Facebook and Google’s sub­ mission to the committee reviewing the Bill states, “we … remain concerned at the lack of independent oversight of Notices and the absence of checks and balances with this legislation …”

Pardon ? You mean like the checks and balances which don’t exist on how much data Amazon, Facebook and Google can collect on individuals and how this information is used?

Their submission goes on to claim that the Bill ‘proposes extraordinary powers that are unprecedented’ and that a more workable legislation is re­quired to ‘protect the safety of Austra­lians online’.

Perhaps the Bill does have flaws, which is why the work of the commit­ tee reviewing it is so important. But it is the height of hypocrisy for these online giants, who have ‘unprecedented and extraordinary’ access to the private in­ formation of millions of Australians, to whine about the government’s poten­tial invasion of our privacy.

Take Amazon’s Alexa unit. Unlike many electronic devices, this unit does not switch itself off when left un ­ used for a period of time. It’s always ‘on’ and always listening. More importantly, each unit has one account and the device does not differentiate between adults and children. These devices record and store almost every piece of infor­mation spoken aloud while the ma­ chine is switched on and deliver advertising based on an aggregated profile of the account associated with your home, not specific to any par­ticular user. This should send up red flags with every parent.

Facebook also has a hide opposing the proposed laws based on issues of ‘information security’. As at the third quarter of 2018, Facebook had more than 2.2 billion followers. In 2017 ad­vertising made up 97 per cent of Face­ book’s $40 billion revenue – that is video advertisements, mobile adver­tisements, page likes, page boosts, and more from individuals and compan­ies. Facebook attracts this mass ad­vertising by offering up our personal information with no checks or balan­ces on what algorithms are used, what depth of information is taken nor how and where the information is used.

In fact, the likely reason the social tech giants are opposed to the gov­ernment’s proposed legislation, is be­ cause they’re opposed to any government, anywhere in the world imposing conditions of any kind on their operations.

Regardless of the merits of the Bill, the opposition expressed by Amazon, Facebook and others is about as auth­entic as Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos crying poor.