“Can Cause Unintentional Harm”: Google Questions ACCC’s Ad Tech Proposals

“Can Cause Unintentional Harm”: Google Questions ACCC’s Ad Tech Proposals
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Google has suggested the ACCC’s proposals to promote greater competition in the digital advertising ecosystem may negatively impact consumer privacy.

Earlier this year, the ACCC published an interim report into digital advertising services as part of an ongoing inquiry into digital platforms.

The report points to Google’s “industry-leading position” in the market and suggests that Google is able to conduct self preferencing due to its presence across the ad tech supply chain.

To address the issue of competition in ad tech, the ACCC discusses initiatives such as data portability and interoperability, as well as data separation mechanisms as possible ways to level out the playing field.

However, Google has now expressed concerns around how such techniques could impact consumer privacy and potentially go against existing privacy regulations.

Google Australia’s Google Marketing Platform director Barney Pierce highlighted that any major changes to the digital advertising ecosystem would ultimately result in “trade-offs”.

“Well-meaning but misjudged interventions can cause unintentional harm to consumers and businesses. For example, measures that increase transparency for one group may put consumer privacy at risk,” he said.

“We firmly believe that privacy needs to be a core principle underpinning the development of any proposals. Our users trust us with their data and we take that responsibility seriously.”

Pierce also pointed out that proposed changes should be consistent with the current review of the Privacy Act 1988.

Thumbs up for data portability

Google did support some of the ACCC’s proposals in principle.  In Google’s official submission in response to the inquiry, the tech giant endorses proposed measures to improve data portability.

Data portability, as it is proposed by the ACCC, would give end-users greater control over their data and how it is used by advertisers.

For Google, which is currently moving away from third-party cookies towards privacy-first web browsing, such a change would be welcome.

“We believe the ACCC’s objectives are best achieved by data portability measures that are industry-led and industry-wide and where the user is in control. To safeguard consumer privacy and promote participation and competition, such measures should only apply to data controlled by the user,” Google says in the report.

In terms of data interoperability, which would involve businesses sharing anonymised consumer data, Google is not so supportive.

“Data interoperability measures have significant risks that do not exist for data portability measures. This includes risks to consumer privacy, confidentiality obligations, incentives to invest and innovate, and intellectual property rights,” says the report.

The concept of intra-company data separation, which the ACCC has suggested could be mandated by setting purpose limitation requirements on firms, also was called into question by Google.

“The potential gains from such measures are speculative as compared to the significant risks of real and immediate costs to publishers, advertisers and consumers,” the report says.

“Such measures are likely to lead to reduced efficiency, innovation, competition and consumer benefits, and potential consent fatigue for consumers. We urge the ACCC to gather evidence on the potential negative impacts that data silos could have on efficiency and innovation.”

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