Recode is reporting that Alphabet, Amazon, and Microsoft are working on apps that can detect whether or not users are actively surfing the web, while Facebook is experimenting with a similar approach.
These new apps could potentially be the future of online privacy, but they’re also a potentially ominous sign for privacy advocates who worry about the rise of ubiquitous spying tools and pervasive surveillance.
“We believe that the advent of pervasive, ever-increasing surveillance technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence is likely to cause significant harm to privacy and civil liberties,” wrote Google, Amazon and Microsoft in a joint letter on March 7.
“In particular, these technologies have the potential to create new types of surveillance, including automated tracking of people’s movements and activities, the collection of personally identifiable information, and the use of non-traditional methods to identify individuals.”
The letter, penned by former Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Edith Ramirez, a prominent privacy advocate, argued that “many people are worried about the growing encroachment on privacy and personal freedoms.”
The letter also called for Facebook to build a “counter-surveillance platform,” arguing that the company should build apps to “prevent the creation of new types [of] surveillance tools.”
The two companies went on to say that “it is important that these tools be designed to work together.”
“Our efforts will be focused on building tools that can help people protect their privacy and safety on the web and on mobile devices, so that users can access the internet safely, securely, and easily,” the letter said.
“This includes a counter-survey tool, and we will work to enable the use and sharing of counter-sources, so people can use and share information that’s collected through these tools, so the tools are used for good.”
In its letter, Google said that “countersurveys are used by millions of people every day and will continue to grow as new tools are created.”
“Building counter-tracking capabilities into the internet’s architecture will help protect the privacy of millions of internet users, while helping governments to better understand the activities of users,” the company said.
Google said that the counter-traffic tracking features could help the company build a tool that would detect when users surf the web or otherwise visit websites without permission, and allow users to remove themselves from the list.
In another move, Amazon is testing a feature that would give advertisers more control over how ads appear on sites that use its “Amazon Marketplace,” an ad-blocking service.
The Marketplace has long been a popular platform for online shoppers, and it has been used by Amazon and other big tech giants to target and target specific content.
But the move comes as tech giants are also beginning to grapple with how to tackle online privacy and privacy-invading practices, as well as the rise in pervasive surveillance tools.
Google, Amazon have been among the biggest names in the space, and their efforts are being welcomed by privacy advocates.
They are pushing for companies to adopt “cloud computing” technologies that can monitor users, as opposed to using servers, which can provide users with a more complete picture of what they’re seeing.
The companies also recently said they would “increase transparency about the types of data that are being collected and how that data is used.”
They have also announced plans to begin collecting data on how people interact with the sites they visit.
Microsoft also recently announced that it will begin collecting and sharing user data about how people use its online services.
It said it will also share more details about how it uses that data.
The two tech giants have been in a battle with Apple over the past year, with the tech giant demanding that Apple build its own tools to fight against its use of “backdoors” in its operating system.
The companies have both denied Apple’s allegations.