Big data turning kids into ‘voodoo dolls’: MP

Canadian chair of international panel on data, privacy and democracy sums up three days of hearings

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Chair Bob Zimmer and members of the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy listen to a question from media during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

The world’s lawmakers have a duty to protect children from being turned into ”voodoo dolls” by the “surveillance capitalism” of major high-tech companies, says the Canadian chair of the international grand committee on big data, privacy and democracy.

Conservative MP Bob Zimmer offered that summary as the multinational group of legislators wrapped its third and final day of hearings of Parliament Hill on Wednesday.

The committee is examining the role of internet giants in safeguarding privacy and democratic rights.

Over three days, the MPs have grilled representatives from Facebook, Amazon and other tech titans, and they lamented the fact the household names that head those and other organizations ignored requests to testify. They were replaced by lower-level officials who, in some cases, declined to answer questions because they said they didn’t have the big-picture knowledge of their celebrity bosses.

Zimmer said the hearings have been useful as he watches his own four children, aged 15 to 21, “getting more and more addicted to these phones.”

“When you see from surveillance capitalism, the whole drive, the whole business model is to keep them glued to that phone despite the bad health that that brings to those children — our kids. It’s all for a buck,” said Zimmer. “We’re responsible to do something about that. We care about our kids. We don’t want to see them turned into voodoo dolls, to be controlled by the almighty dollar and capitalism.”

Liberal and New Democrat MPs on the committee shared that view in a rare show of domestic political unity. That was evident across international lines as well.

British MP Damian Collins, the committee co-chair, said the hearings have shown how the companies were “unwilling to answer direct questions about how they gather data and how they use it.”

READ MORE: Mozilla exec tells Ottawa big data committee he was ‘shocked’ by what Alexa recorded

That includes testimony by witnesses who couldn’t explain how Facebook and Amazon interact, or how data from the LinkedIn networking site and Microsoft (which bought it in 2016) are integrated, said Collins.

“I don’t understand why companies are unwilling to talk openly about the tools they put in place. People may consent to use these tools but do they understand the extent of the data they’re sharing when they do.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

College could offer training programs this fall

But has no plans to re-establish a physical presence

Bath day

The Houston Volunteer Fire Department, Perry Slaney and Fred Brown were out… Continue reading

Emergency service day in Houston

The second annual emergency service day was held on July 11 in… Continue reading

New CAO starts at RDBN

Curtis Helgesen started as the new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the… Continue reading

Looking good Houston

The District of Houston, maintenance crew recently replaced the old banners through… Continue reading

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

Justin Trudeau’s carbon footprint revealed in ranking of world leaders

Travel company ranks 15 world leaders’ foreign flight CO2 emissions

“Does Kirby care?” B.C. First Nation’s group using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Most Read