Date: Dec 4, 2019

South Africa: New poll reveals 4 in 5 people want government to regulate Big Tech over personal data fears

Eighty percent of people in South Africa want governments to do more to regulate Big Tech companies, with a majority (68%) worried about how tech companies collect and use their personal data, a new Amnesty International poll conducted by YouGov reveals.

One thousand people in South Africa were asked about their attitudes to online privacy and Big Tech – with nearly 10,000 people across nine countries polled overall. The other countries polled were Brazil, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Norway and the USA.

Across all the countries polled seven in ten people (73%) want governments to do more to regulate Big Tech, with a clear majority (71%) worried about how the tech giants collect and use their personal data

“The poll results are stark and consistent – a clear majority of people in South Africa are worried about the power Big Tech has over their lives. People are hankering for governments to do more to regulate these corporate giants,” said Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa.

“The results are a damning indictment of how Big Tech companies harvest and use our personal data. People want to see an end to tech companies trampling over our right to privacy.”

In South Africa, those who are worried about the collection of their personal data are most concerned with the lack of control they have as to how tech companies share their personal data (69%).

Nearly eight in ten people (79%) in South Africa consider the creation and selling of detailed personal profiles for targeted advertising as a problem. When asked to explain why, those polled said it was an invasion of privacy (63%). Just over half (51%) were concerned people could be unfairly influenced with political advertising without their knowledge.

“Scandals like Cambridge Analytica’s illicit harvesting of millions of people’s personal data have seriously damaged public trust in tech companies,” said Shenilla Mohamed.

“The South African government must 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.”

With people polled across South Africa’s nine provinces, over half (55%) said they are now more cautious about how they share their personal information online. Over a third (36%) avoid certain search terms or web pages because they are concerned about tracking, while 35% elected not to use a platform because of data privacy concerns. This shows that online corporate surveillance is having a chilling effect on people’s ability to access the digital world. Nearly a third (31%) use tools to limit online tracking.

The results of the poll reinforce Amnesty’s analysis that the core business model of Facebook and Google poses a systemic threat to human rights. Last month, Amnesty International released an in-depth report showing how the surveillance-based business model the two tech giants is incompatible with every element of the right to privacy. This includes freedom from intrusion into our private lives, the right to control information about ourselves, and the right to a space in which we can freely express our identities. It also showed how the business model poses a threat to a range of other rights including freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of thought, and the right to equality and non-discrimination.

Amnesty International is calling on governments, including the South African government, to overhaul the surveillance-based business model and protect people from corporate human rights abuses. As a first step, governments must enact and enforce laws that prevent companies from making access to their services conditional on individuals “consenting” to the collection, processing or sharing of their personal data for marketing or advertising.

Notes to editors

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size across nine countries was 9,312 adults. The sample size in South Africa was 1,000 adults. Results from South Africa have been weighted and are representative of all adults in South Africa (aged 18+). Additionally, all countries’ results have been merged and weighted and are representative based on population size. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th October and 1st November 2019. All surveys were carried out online.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Mienke Steytler, Media and Digital Content Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 11 283 6000 (office) or +27 64 890 9224 (mobile);