Consumer protection boss Rod Sims has warned Google and Facebook that they are not above the law after the competition watchdog recommended sweeping changes to the way Australia regulates global internet giants in the local media landscape.
The power and influence of the global tech giants Google and Facebook could be reined in to protect consumer privacy according to a world first report by Australia's competition watchdog.
While it is not illegal for businesses to out-compete their rivals using superior skills and efficiency, the ACCC noted that firms with substantial market power could still damage the competitive process by restricting their rivals' ability to compete, rather than offering a more attractive product.
"There is a lack of transparency on the part of the digital platforms about these algorithms", the ACCC's preliminary report said.
Despite this, he said, "digital platforms face less regulation than many media businesses", and their position justified "a greater level of regulatory oversight".
"Consumers have informed the ACCC that they have concerns over the extent and range of information collected by digital platforms", the ACCC preliminary report, released on Monday and dubbed "Digital platforms inquiry", read. Digital advertising has increased substantially in Australia in recent years, rising from less than $1 billion in 2005 to nearly $8 billion in 2017.
Each month, approximately 19 million Australians use Google Search, 17 million access Facebook, 17 million watch YouTube (which is owned by Google) and 11 million access Instagram (which is owned by Facebook).
Other areas identified for further investigation in the ACCC's preliminary report included signalling where news stories came from, obligations to delete users' data, whether users should be able to opt out of targeted advertising, and measures to fund news and journalism in Australia. "While the evidence of filter bubbles arising on digital platforms in Australia is not yet strong, the importance of this issue means it requires close scrutiny", the ACCC commented.
Derek has been working as a journalist for almost over a decade having published pieces many publications including the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Huffing Post.
"Digital platforms are also unavoidable business partners for many Australian businesses".
He added that this market dominance and the downturn of ad revenue has led to a cut in the number of journalists over the past 10 years. "This has implications across society because of the important role the media plays in exposing corruption and holding governments, companies, powerful individuals and institutions to account", he said.
The ACCC also found Google and Facebook users faced lengthy and complex privacy contracts with "take-it-or-leave-it terms" and recommended changes to the Privacy Act to strengthen consent, notification, and penalty regulations.
The ACCC also called for feedback on the recommendations and the proposed areas for further analysis.
The ACCC said it is further considering a recommendation for a specific code of practice for digital platforms' data collection to better inform consumers and improve their bargaining power.