The hyper-connected world is today’s reality. Many of us cannot remember a world without the internet. This dependence is not without its perils. A recent survey conducted by Ranking Digital Rights, found that even the world’s top tech companies fail to protect data-privacy rights and freedom of expression.

This detailed analysis of user agreement policies highlights that even tech firm giants do not offer basic disclosures about privacy and censorship. Users are generally unaware of exactly how their data is being used or censored. 

Often users only realise the inherent risks when there is a high profile data breach. Disclosure about collection, use, sharing and retention of user information is universally poor. Users have little control over the posts and videos they create on a tech company’s platform.

The survey found an encouraging trend towards disclosures following Government demands for deep reports on data. However, the language used was so complex that only regulators could understand the terms. No tech company discloses internal censorship in their user agreement policies. If a platform decides to edit or remove someone’s content, it does not disclose either that it has done so, or why. Rarely do users have any recourse if their data is censored or disclosed without their consent.

Lack of transparency is a universal issue, often compounded by inconsistencies across a company. Most of the giant tech firms are conglomerates yet there is often no cross-group consensus on disclosure policies. With their global reach, language variances are important. Sometimes privacy agreements are not published in the correct language.

The main message of the survey is that while users need tech companies, tech companies need users as well. As users become more aware of data-privacy and freedom of expression rights, tech companies will pursue initiatives to meet expectations and obligations and retain market share. 


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