Potential for Outrage? Danish Attitudes Towards Data Surveillance from Google and Facebook

Mathias Trier Reindel & Nicolai Due Møller

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

The rise of Google and later Facebook has sparked critique amongst both privacy advocates and academics related to multiple issues including data privacy, content moderation, behaviour modification, discriminatory algorithms and more. However, despite these criticisms both Google and Facebook have continued to enjoy economic success. One of the most influential critics of Google and Facebook, Shoshana Zuboff, has suggested a number of reasons for why the outrage and protest against the surveillance practices of Google and Facebook has so far been negligible. The foundation of our theoretical framework is based on a reordering and categorizing of Zuboff’s reasons into five different categories of our own conception, as wells as Draper and Turow’s concept of Digital Resignation. This has been used to guide our analysis at the individual microlevel of analysis to answer two research questions: 1) to what extent there is dissatisfaction and potential for outrage in the Danish population regarding accumulation and use of personal data by Google and Facebook? and 2) what the main challenges are for the Danish population to actively resist this data accumulation and use? To answer our two research questions, we conducted research based on a mixed-methods research design. Specifically, we have used both a large-N quantitative survey study with 268 respondents and a small-N qualitative interview study of 10 semi structured interviews. With this research we are able to demonstrate that large parts of the Danish population are actually concerned and dissatisfied with the collection and use of personal data, but that a potential for outrage is quite limited due to both a lack of knowledge on the topic and social costs associated with quitting the services of Google and Facebook. We also demonstrate that the Danish population faces considerable challenges in actively resisting the accumulation and use of their personal data. Specifically, we found that Danes feel dependent on the services offered by Facebook and Google, and that there exists a widespread belief that it is near-impossible to avoid data collection. We argue that these two factors together contribute to a pronounced digital resignation in Denmark, wherein people cannot see the meaning of actively resisting data collection. This digital resignation results in many Danes calling for stricter data privacy regulation, and some explicitly delegate the responsibility of dealing with the issues of data privacy to politicians and regulators. Lastly, our thesis includes some further perspectives where we consider the future of Google and Facebook, states’ interest in data accumulation and how both policy instruments and individual action can contribute to change the trajectory of these companies and future data practices.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2020
Number of pages181
SupervisorsJulie Uldam