IAB Warns Of “Unintended Consequences” From Privacy Act Reforms

IAB Warns Of “Unintended Consequences” From Privacy Act Reforms

IAB Australia’s director of policy and regulatory affairs, Sarah Waladan (pictured), has warned of “unintended consequences” for Australia’s advertising businesses and wider society if the proposed reforms to the Privacy Act 1988 were to be passed in their current state.

Speaking at the digital advertising body’s Data & Privacy Summit, Waladan told B&T that the organisation had “concerns” over the current state of the proposals and the implications they would have for digital advertising and all of the content that it supports.

Of particular concern was the Privacy Act Review Report’s broad definition of targeted advertising and data trading.

“Enabling consumers to opt out of broad targeting is really problematic,” said Waladan.

“If you can’t put consumers in a broad segment for New South Wales, then you might have consumers in Western Australia seeing things in New South Wales. It’s problematic from a commercial perspective. If your local pizza shop can’t target the local community then it ends up having to spend marketing budgets on targeting much broader sets of people that are never going to purchase or use the service.”

Dan Stinton, the Guardian Australia and New Zealand’s managing director and non-executive director of the IAB, concurred during a panel discussion at the event.

“If your data collection is fair and reasonable, you shouldn’t have any issue with asking for consent… It is completely fair and reasonable to target a consumer based on their state or postcode. The potential for harm in that circumstance is very small. It’s largely how offline advertising works, as well,” he said.

One of the most significant unintended consequences of a blanket ban on targeted advertising, according to Waladan, would be the removal of exclusion targeting.

“Enabling consumers to opt-out of exclusion targeting is problematic because it essentially means that you cannot prevent vulnerable people or children from seeing certain content that is inappropriate. And it’s how companies implement online safety policies.”

Waladan added that with the ongoing inquiry into online gambling and advertising of wagering services, the proposal to ban all forms of exclusion targeting was misguided.

“If we want to prevent children from seeing wagering advertising online, exclusion targeting is a key way that we can achieve that outcome. We need to decide which one takes priority,” she said.

The expanded definition of “trading” personal information in the Privacy Act Review Report would also cause significant problems for Australia’s advertising industry and consumers.

“It includes any form of sharing personal information or, depending on how you read the definition, even the verification of data points with partner organisations or group members,” she explained.

“It is an area where the proposals go farther than pretty much all of the other jurisdictions that the report looks at, like the EU, the UK and California. In the context that the report is introducing a fair and reasonable requirement and moving away from a consent-centric approach, it’s inconsistent with the general approach of the report.”

Of course, there is still a way to go until the changes to the Privacy Act, whatever form they may take, will become a reality.

“This is the same department that is responsible for carrying out the Voice [to Parliament referendum], so I can’t see this being ahead of that process,” added Stinton.

Frederick Finiguerra, senior legal counsel at Seven West Media, said during one of the panel chats that advertisers shouldn’t be “rushing out the doors” and “ringing lawyers.”

Instead, Finiguerra wanted to encourage the audience to increase their literacy on the topic.

“There will come a point where the legislation will come in some form and you’ll need to work out what it means for your business. The better you are prepared to have those conversations with your legal team, the better. And, if there is a tension in that conversation, that’s probably good. If there’s no tension, someone’s not doing the job right,” he explained.

Sarah Miles, senior privacy officer and privacy champion at the ABC, suggested it would be worth educating legal teams on the necessity of using personal information in digital advertising and why it is necessary to share data and collaborate with other organisations.

“Treat them like first-year media buyers,” she said.

The review process for the Privacy Act is still underway, despite the publication of the review report. In fact, the restoration of a dedicated privacy commissioner was announced by the Albanese government on the same day as the Data & Privacy Summit.

What form the final law takes remains to be seen but, from speaking to those at the coalface of digital advertising, it is clear that a lot still needs to be ironed out.

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