Facebook and Google’s algorithm snooping secrets could be revealed as part of an Australian inquiry into tech giants and how they handle your data
- Australia’s competition regulator conducted an inquiry into Google, Facebook
- It’s released a final report containing 23 recommendations to curb their power
- ACCC also wants individuals to have the power to sue tech giants over privacy
- Internet giants may be forced to share their coding secrets with the government
Secretive algorithms used by Facebook and Google could soon fall under the scrutiny of an Australian watchdog.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is so concerned about the firm’s activities that it wants the law changed.
In a move that has ramifications around the world, the ACCC hopes to curtail the way internet firms handle the private information of their users.
It recommends strengthening privacy safeguards and issuing harsh fines of up to 10 per cent of a company’s annual turnover if privacy rules are broken.
It also proposes giving regulators the legal power to order tech giants to hand information about how their algorithms work over to them.
If enacted, the world first legislation would place strict limits on the influence of Facebook and Google on targeted advertising and news coverage.
Australians would also have the power to sue any companies that breach their privacy rights.
Internet giants Google and Facebook could be forced to share their commercial secrets with the Australian government to promote competition and protect privacy (pictured is Google’s headquarters at Mountain View in California)
POLICIES TO PROTECT YOUR PRIVACY
1. Strengthening the Privacy Act so individuals can sue the likes of Facebook and Google for breaching their privacy
2. Companies would be required to delete the personal details of individuals unless it was related to a contract
3. Corporations would be required to tell individuals if they had access their personal details
Following an 18-month inquiry into their power, the competition regulator has recommended the Privacy Act be changed so Australians had a ‘direct right’ to sue companies that exploited their private details.
In a series of radical proposals, the ACCC has also recommended corporations holding personal information be required to delete them unless the data is related to a contract.
It also wants social media giants and companies that rely on them to be required, by law, to tell individuals if their personal information has been collected.
The tech titans are also accused of manipulating public opinion, with algorithms that control what information people can access.
‘In Australia, and in other jurisdictions, wide-ranging questions are being asked about the role and impact of digital platforms, stretching from alleged anti-competitive conduct to privacy concerns, and from disparity in media regulation to copyright issues,’ the ACCC said in its final report on Friday.
‘Further issues range from deep concerns over disinformation and harmful content, to the scope and scale of user information collected by platforms, and to the risk of exploitation of consumer vulnerabilities.’
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has expressed concerns about the American search engine and social media behemoths, following an 18-month inquiry into their market power (pictured is Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg)
The ACCC also wants Google and Facebook to share their coding with the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
This is to address the imbalance between them and news media when it comes to monetising content.
‘The ubiquity of the Google and Facebook platforms has placed them in a privileged position,’ the ACCC said.
‘They act as gateways to reaching Australian consumers and they are, in many cases, critical and unavoidable partners for many Australian businesses, including news media businesses.
‘The opaque operations of digital platforms and their presence in inter-related markets mean it is difficult to determine precisely what standard of behaviour these digital platforms are meeting.’
The ACCC has called on ACMA to have the power to remove content from Google and Facebook if they breached copyright.
It also wants the tech giants to provide ACMA with a code of conduct into how it deals with media organisations.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher have released a statement declaring they accepted the need to ‘better protect consumers, improve transparency, recognise power imbalances and ensure that substantial market power is not used to lessen competition in media and advertising services markets’.
They are releasing a formal response later this year, following a 12-week consultation process.
The competition regulator has also made 23 recommendations, including a requirement for them to share their coding with the Australian Communications and Media Authority