Companies back 'open and private' internet in the face of Big Tech 'surveillance capitalism'

Companies back ‘open and private’ internet in the face of Big Tech ‘surveillance capitalism’

A dozen tech companies have launched a new “privacy pledge” that calls for a more open, democratic and private internet. The group says it is an “alternative to surveillance capitalism” in an apparent grip on tech giants that collect vast amounts of user data.

The companies behind the pledge claim that it is possible to use tools without collecting personal data. (Photo by Brietformat/Shutterstock)

Signatories to the pledge include Proton, Neeva, Brave, and Tor Project, as well as startups, academics, and advocacy groups. They hope this will help curb the “regressive impacts on user privacy, freedom, and choice” imposed by Big Tech vendors.

Signing the pledge commits organizations to rebuilding the Internet based on the original ideals set out when it was launched. It is a democratic platform designed to facilitate the free exchange of information, open communication and privacy for the individual.

This comes amid growing demand for increased privacy. A report by the Digital Markets Authority on data privacy earlier this year found that UK consumers have increased the control they have over the data they share, but would like more control, especially online . The report found that 89% of consumers in the UK want more control over the information they share with businesses.

The DMA report also found that consumers want greater transparency before sharing data, although this varies by age group, with 90% of people over 65 considering transparency essential before sharing. data, with only 60% of 18-24 year olds feeling the same way.

The authors of the pledge say hundreds of millions of people have switched to “privacy by default” services. This is where a system includes choices for the user about how much personal data they are willing to share – with the default set to the most privacy-friendly options.

An open internet plan can be a “shining light”

In addition to increasing consumer demand for more privacy and transparency, governments around the world are also beginning to introduce or consider new privacy legislation that would limit the amount of information that can be shared with advertisers and third parties, including the new EU cookie rules.

Andy Yen is founder and CEO of Proton, an encrypted messaging service provider and one of the signatories of the pledge. He said the internet no longer works for the benefit of the people who use it.

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“What was once a shining light for the free exchange of information, the democratization of knowledge, has become a tool for the powerful,” Yen said. “Giant corporations routinely monetize our privacy while trying to sell us a false commitment to protect our privacy.” That includes companies like Meta, Facebook’s parent company, and Google, a Proton spokesperson explained, that rely on collecting user data to support targeted advertising. Technical monitor contacted Meta and Google for a response.

Yen said another way is possible. “Companies, like those who have signed this pledge, are offering a private alternative to the status quo,” he explained. “By holding ourselves to higher ideals, we believe we can set an example for other innovators and provide users with true privacy. By working together, we can restore the Internet to what it was meant to be.

The group has not endorsed any single public policy or tool, but outlines a series of five “core commitments” that it hopes will make the internet more private and improve the protection of user data.

There are no plans to invite any of the big tech companies, including Google, Meta, Amazon or Apple, to sign the pledge, but rather they want to present a “united alternative to Big Tech that prioritizes privacy and where surveillance capitalism is not the default”.

The signatories call for an Internet that is open and accessible to all, supporting democratic values, protecting the fundamental right to privacy and guaranteeing free access to information.

In a statement, the Tor Project said now is the time to oppose Big Tech and surveillance-based capitalism, arguing that tools don’t need to collect data to be useful, usable and profitable. . “At The Tor Project, we’re building technology used by millions of people to stay private and anonymous online every day,” the statement read. “We know from experience that it’s possible to create privacy-by-design tools that people can rely on. Together we can build a better Internet.

Matt Hatfield, director of campaigns for OpenMedia, said organizations must work with the community to “defend privacy and create an internet that puts people first.”

Read more: UK government to outline AI regulatory plan

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