The ACCC suspects Google and Facebook have collected much more personal information than widely known, asserting accurate revelations could cause mass concern.
The news comes after the Federal Government tasked the ACCC with investigating the digital tech giants – an inquiry Chairman, Rod Sims, reportedly affirms will be the broadest of its nature in the world.
The regulator will determine whether Google or Facebook have abused their market power concerning personal information collection. The tech giant’s impact on the “quality and choice of news” will also be under scrutiny.
“Considering the longer term impacts of digital platforms and the ability of traditional media to remain financially viable will also be key to understanding the media and advertising markets,” Mr Sims adds.
“Our aim is also to understand better the digital platforms’ business models and how they operate behind the scenes, and the evolving nature of the way consumers search for and receive news in Australia. We are particularly interested in the extent to which digital platforms curate news and journalistic content”.
The ACCC’s inquiry will query Australian consumers about what information they believe Facebook and Google have collected about them, compared to actual facts.
Mr Sims informed news.com.au that many people believe the average consumer is aware of information collected, but “doesn’t care”. Irrespective of assumptions, Sims states it’s a matter that needs to be tested.
“Some people have asserted that consumers know what’s going on and don’t care”
“I think it’s absolutely crucial we find out what consumers do know and then let’s see whether they care”
“My suspicion is Facebook and Google have much more personal information about people than people realise”
“Whether that is right, we’ll need to test. Whether people are concerned about that, we’ll need to test”.
As part of its public inquiry, the ACCC has invited “consumers, media organisations, digital platforms, advertising agencies and advertisers” to provide feedback on the following areas:
- Whether digital platforms have bargaining power in their dealings with media content creators, advertisers or consumers and the implications of that bargaining power.
- Whether digital platforms have impacted media organisations’ ability to fund and produce quality news and journalistic content for Australians
- How technological change and digital platforms have changed the media and advertising services markets, and the way consumers access news
- The extent to which consumers understand what data is being collected about them by digital platforms, and how this information is used
- How the use of algorithms affects the presentation of news for digital platform users.
Individuals can read the ACCC’s issues paper here. The watchdog is seeking responses to its issues paper by April 3rd, with a preliminary report on its findings to be released in December 2018.
Consumers can provide their feedback to the inquiry more informally through the ACCC’s consultation hub here.