Australia Debates Tougher Privacy Regulation of Digital Platforms
161 Privacy Laws & Business International Report 17-19, 2019
5 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2020
Date Written: September 18, 2019
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and to some extent the Australian government, have taken a prominent early position part of global moves toward tighter regulation of digital platforms, such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and others.
The ACCC released the Final Report in its Digital Platforms Inquiry on 26 July 2019. The Australian Government is conducting a public consultation on the ACCC report, and will announce its response and draft legislation before the end of 2019. This article focuses on the ACCC’s data privacy proposals.
With the emergence of the surveillance economy, the collection and use of personal data is the main source of value for digital platforms. The effective control of large data sets exercised by platforms, such as Google and Facebook, creates a power imbalance between platforms and users such that any consent given by users to the collection and use of personal data is illusory. These flows of data have been used to create what is now widely described as ‘the surveillance economy’, substantially invented by Google nearly two decades ago, and shortly thereafter adopted by Facebook. Establishing an effective data privacy regime is therefore essential to correct market shortcomings in the data economy.
The recommendations of the ACCC, if adopted, present a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity for serious reform of Australia’s moribund privacy laws. Although triggered by the challenges to privacy and other interests presented by digital platforms, their significance in the Australian context is much broader. Each of the main categories of ACCC recommendations, their scope, significance and shortcomings, is outlined, The reforms recommended by the ACCC fall into two main categories: first are those which would bring some of the principles and enforcement mechanisms of the Privacy Act 1988 up to current international standards, the strongest example of which is the EU’s GDPR. Second are reforms such as the DP Privacy Code, and the expanded powers under consumer law which are relevant to privacy which go beyond most current data protection laws, and may be useful for consideration in other countries – whether or not they are enacted by the Australian government.
Keywords: Competition, Data Protection, Privacy, Digital Platforms, Australia
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