Unpacking ‘commercial surveillance’: The state of tracking

Jan 4, 2023 | News

The Research Service of the European Parliament has published a report on the current situation of the collection and use of information of social networks and mobile applications users, with a particular focus on Google, Meta and Amazon. Data collection and analysis is a building block for today’s digital economy and a host of new disruptive technologies. 

The European Union has set a high standard for the protection of personal data. However, critics argue  that some of the rules ensuring these protections can have negative effects on potential data-based prosperity. The document is partly a response to a proposal to amend the EU’s European Digital Identity Regulation, which would improve the protection of personal information while making it more difficult to collect.

The document presents the main methods that private companies use to collect data. And above all with a focus on the aforementioned Google, Meta and Amazon. These companies are almost ubiquitous on mobile devices, apps and websites. This is, for example, the collection  of data from server logs, cookie files or information that is generated by users (searches, comments, phone numbers, dates of birth, metadata of uploaded files, etc.). Companies also collect data  using mobile applications, or in the case of Google, their own Android operating system.

The briefing also presents new technologies for ambient monitoring, which are mainly used by Amazon in the context of artificial intelligence and the voice assistant Alexa or the smart doorbell Amazon Ring.

The full report can be found here