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Facebook privacy debate shows most countries not ready for digital economy: UN


Press Trust of India United Nations
The ongoing Privacy concern raised after the Facebook data scandal illustrates that most countries are ill prepared for the digital economy, the United Nations has said.
Cambridge Analytica, the UK-based analytics and marketing firm that worked for the Trump presidential campaign in 2016, allegedly procured Facebook data harvested from millions of users to target US voters. It is alleged that the firm also worked extensively in India.
The Internet user growth is booming and with more people ever purchasing goods and services online, protecting their privacy must be a top priority, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the main UN agency dealing with the economics of globalisation, said.
The privacy concerns raised after the revelation that a political data firm gained access to millions of Facebook users without their consent signals to the larger problem that nations need to be prepared more for a world of e-commerce, UNCTAD said.
"The current debate about Facebook and data privacy vividly illustrates that most countries are ill prepared for the digital economy," UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.
This is more worrying given that about 90 per cent of new Internet users over the last five years live in developing countries about half of which currently lack legislation to protect their privacy, he said.
In addition, with global e-commerce estimated to have reached USD 26 trillion in 2016, ensuring that no one is left behind in enjoying its benefits is also vital.
Kituyi's call coincides with the agency's E-Commerce Week in Geneva next month. It is the leading forum for governments, private sector, development banks, academia and the civil society to discuss development opportunities and challenges before the evolving digital economy.
UNCTAD said the digital economy is evolving fast. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of monthly Facebook users surged from 1 billion to 2.2 billion - with the fastest growth happening in developing countries.
New estimates from UNCTAD suggest that global e-commerce reached almost USD 26 trillion in 2016. The United States remained by far the largest market, with combined e-commerce sales of some USD 7.6 trillion, with Japan ranked second, some distance behind.
However, China is the leader in the business to consumer (B2C) segment. China and the US accounted for just over half of all B2C sales in 2016.
India in 2016 entered the top 10 e-commerce markets for the first time.
There were an estimated 1.4 billion online shoppers around the globe in 2016 (up by 11 per cent over 2015), equivalent to 55 per cent of all Internet users.
"We know that the digital economy can bring great benefits to developing countries, but we need to address some critical questions to ensure that digitalisation leads to the future we want," Kituyi added.

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First Published: Mar 29 2018 | 7:55 PM IST

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