Australia now takes on Google advertising dominance

Platform Industry: Google News Australia

An Australian ruler is thinking about letting net users choose what private information companies like Google share with advertisers, as part of the country’s efforts to shatter the dominance of tech titans.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) also suggested limiting the net giants’ ability to access users’ online histories to cross-sell products.

The suggestions were part of the ACCC’s interim report into electronic marketing in Australia, a A$3.4 billion (approximately $2.6 billion) market the regulator said is marked by an absence of competition, transparency and choice.

The ACCC quotes Google’s share of Australian electronic advertising revenue at between 50% and 100%, depending upon the service.

“Google is the only one that can determine the effectiveness of ads, so really often they’re marking their own homework when it comes to the effectiveness of the ads they supply,” ACCC seat Rod Sims told journalists in a phone interview.

The proposals add a new element to the antitrust operator’s effort to inspect the ability of online behemoths Google and Facebook in Australia.

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Proposals by the ACCC which Google cover local media for content that drives traffic to their websites have been adopted in draft laws from the authorities. Google has criticised the planned News Media Bargaining Code, threatening to pull on its search engine from Australia if they proceed.

In Thursday’s 222-page digital advertising report, the ruler also proposed a system under which users’ personal data would be shared more widely with advertisers, on an anonymised basis, to foster more competition.

Allowing internet users to choose to give other parties access to their clicking data may also promote competition among online advertising suppliers, the ACCC said.

Preventing tech companies from using data collected in one scenario to sell advertising in an unrelated field would also reduce the ability of a single player to dominate the digital ad market, the report added.

The regulator is accepting submissions for the next month ahead of a final report due in August. The government will then decide whether to make its recommendations law.

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A Google spokesman said the company’s advertising service “helps businesses connect with customers and publishers reach new audiences, generating new growth and sales opportunities for them”.

A Facebook representative said the company was reviewing the report, without commenting further.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg noted the ACCC’s “concerns over competitiveness and the continuing dominance of technology giants” but did not say whether he supported the proposals.

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Sims said he was not surprised by Google’s threat to pull its search platform if the media laws went ahead.

“If you want to come up with good public policy on those issues you are bound to be getting companies to do things they don’t wish to do,” he said.

Hannah Marshall, a partner at Marque Lawyers who specialises in competition law and media, told journalists at our partner news agency Reuters she expected Google and Facebook to start withdrawing services if the law went ahead.

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“While this requirement to pay to connect to information content stays in the code, I do not think that there is going to be a settlement that works,” she said.

“If enacted in its current form, Google and Facebook are likely to make good on their threats and that will kind of start a chain reaction of terrible consequences for a whole lot of people in Australia, not merely the news publishers”

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Translation from English to other languages via Google Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Byron Kaye. Additional reporting by Jill Gralow. Editing by Aurora Ellis and Jane Wardell.

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