People working in the Czech media do not trust technology companies, they are also con­cerned about artificial intelligence decision-making

These findings come as a result of a survey conducted in the summer of 2022 as part of the Promoting human rights in the digital era project. The digital legal organisation and an EDRi member in the Czech Republic IuRe (Iuridicum Remedium) also took part.

By Iuridicum Remedium (guest author) · November 16, 2022

A total of 620 people working in the Czech media participated in the survey. Almost three-quarters of the interviewees were journalists, along with people from the technology, marketing and sales departments.

In the main part, respondents answered questions about the transformation of journalism as a profession in the “digital age”. Other questions then focused on digital exclusion, content for people with specific needs, and access to privacy.

The research brought out some interesting contradictions:

  • A total of 84.4% of respondents believe that technology companies collect much more information about people than what they report (44.6% strongly agree, 39.8% somewhat agree).
  • Almost the same number of people think that users should have the right to stop the online content they see from being tailored based on the collected data.
  • 81.3% of the media workers support the right of users to access information about how their content is being personalised and what are the main parameters that influence the display of content (51.9% strongly agree, 29.4% somewhat agree).
  • However, a large part of the professionals interviewed (44.4%) cannot assess whether and how the media outlet they work for manages its content. More than a quarter of them (26.4%) admits that their media websites recommend different articles to each reader based on the collected data, while 13.6% do not know exactly how this is being done.

Media workers for “Right to Analogue”

The answers regarding digital exclusion were also somewhat surprising. According to a third of the respondents, the number of digitally excluded people is decreasing, 30.8% state that it is the same, and 23.6% cannot assess it. Only 11% say that digital exclusion is a growing problem.

However, more than half of those interviewed (57.3%) are in favour of the public administration using a non-digital form of communicating with citizens in addition to the existing digital tools. According to 17.6%, “paper” communication should only be allowed for certain groups, and 18.7% would support the further use of non-digital forms of communication along with a continuous encouragement of citizens to use digital forms.

At the same time, media workers are highly aware that if a person does not know how to work with a computer or smartphone, they will not have access to public administration information, such as office hours and contacts (26.7% strongly agree, 45% somewhat agree). According to 83.7% of the respondents, these people struggle to access banking services and experience limited access to information about school education.

In the context of digital exclusion, media workers have relatively strong experience. Roughly two-thirds of them know someone who does not have a smartphone, a quarter knows someone who does not have an account online, a whopping 40.6% know someone without an email, and one-third know someone who has never worked with a computer. And finally, about one-third know someone who has the means and knowledge to work with digital technologies but refuses to do so.

Feel free to use cameras, but not artificial intelligence in court

The attitude of media employees towards technologies in the public space is rather lukewarm. More than half disagree that there are “too many” security cameras in cities (42.2% somewhat disagree, 17.4% strongly disagree). The facial recognition cameras at Václav Havel Airport are also not seen as “too outrageous”: they earned a value of 65.52% on a 0-100 justification scale.

The centralised storage of personal data, including data about medical procedures, in state databases, which occurs within the national health information system, is not seen as concerning either, as shown by the 61.3% score on the justification scale.

However, even fewer journalists (justification scale of4­4.92%) support the widespread retention of data from all phone calls, including tracking of movement – the reason why journalist Jan Cibulka is currently suing the Czech state.

And about 20.53% on the justification scale see the use of data from mobile operators for targeting advertising in public space as even bigger problem – for which Metrozoom won one of the Czech Big Brother Awards this year. The survey results showed even more concerning attitudes as many of the respondents recognise the following issues as even greater: the sale of anonymised data, providing information on the activities of specific individuals, by anti-virus companies and the use of personal data for targeted political advertising.

In the survey, the possibility of deploying artificial intelligence in court was faced with strong opposition: 49.5% of the people totally disagree with simple court disputes being decided by artificial intelligence based on previous court decisions, and 28.9% are more likely to be against it.

Lastly, media workers are against making the tax returns of all citizens publicly available, as is the case in Norway (36.9% somewhat disagree, 22% strongly disagree).

The research was carried out within the Promoting human rights in the digital era project and was supported by the Human Rights program funded by Norwegian funds 2014-2021.

Two EDRi members cooperated on the project, Electronic Frontier Norway and Iuridicum Remedium.

Read the original article in Czech here.

(Contribution by: Hynek Trojánek, PR, EDRi member, Iuridicum Remedium)