Australia recommends strengthening regulation of Facebook, Google

Virginia Carson
December 13, 2018

"The inquiry has also uncovered some concerns that certain digital platforms have breached competition or consumer laws, and the ACCC is now investigating five such allegations to determine if enforcement action is warranted", Mr Sims said.

Sims's comments follow the release of eagerly awaited preliminary report.

Ms Warner said the industry supported a preliminary recommendation for a separate, independent review of regulation, focusing on creating an overarching platform-neutral regulatory regime.

It estimates the digital giants now scoop two-thirds of all Australian advertising spend.

But according to the ACCC report, several key stakeholders have complained about ad verification and ad fraud on Google and Facebook, since the digital platform providers measure the performance of their own products and restrict independent parties from verifying these measurements.

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The recommendation, in a preliminary report on the U.S. firms' market power, is being closely watched around the world as lawmakers wrestle with the tech firms' large and growing influence in public life, from privacy to publishing. Additionally, it will examine the extent to which consumers' data is collected and used for targeted advertising.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a preliminary report on the US firms' market power that extra oversight was justified to ensure advertisers were treated fairly and the public access to news was unfettered.

Among the preliminary recommendations are those aiming to address Google and Facebook's market power and promote increased consumer choice, including a proposal that would prevent Google's browser Chrome being installed as the default on mobile devices, computers and tablets and Google's search engine being the default search engine on browsers.

The report outlines the ACCC's concerns regarding the market power held by these key platforms, including their impact on Australian businesses and, in particular, on the ability of media businesses to monetise their content.

This would include a reform of privacy laws to require the user's express consent to data collection and "enable consumers to require erasure of their personal information where they have withdrawn their consent".

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The report sparked questions about the range and reliability of news available via Google and Facebook.

"But digital platforms are also unavoidable business partners for many Australian businesses".

A lack of transparency in key algorithms makes it hard to know if the tech giants are favoring their own business interests over advertisers using the platforms, the ACCC said.

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", Sims 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.

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