“The Hidden World of Data Collection: ACCC Uncovers Consumer Concerns”

Australia, Finance

Article: In its latest report, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has shed light on the often unnoticed world of data collection, revealing that consumers are largely unaware of the extent to which their data is collected, used, and shared.

The report underscores the critical role of data in today’s digital economy, where it fuels innovation and tailored services.

However, it also raises concerns about transparency, consent, and control over personal data, given the prevalence of long, complex privacy policies and ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ terms.

The ACCC’s findings resonate with a 2023 consumer study, which found that 74 per cent of Australians are uncomfortable with their personal information being shared or sold to other companies.

Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe expressed concern about the potential misalignment between data collection practices and consumer expectations.

The report also highlights the potential risks of re-identification as datasets are combined with additional data points, posing a growing threat to consumer privacy.

Moreover, it flags the potential for data-driven marketing to inadvertently target vulnerable consumers, such as those with a gambling addiction.

The ACCC continues to advocate for reforms to strengthen privacy laws and introduce an unfair trading practices prohibition, aiming to empower consumers and protect their data.

The report also raises concerns about the potential for data firms to harm competition by restricting competitors’ access to data.

This is the eighth report in the ACCC’s five-year Digital Platform Services Inquiry, which has previously made recommendations to bolster competition in the digital economy and address anti-competitive conduct.

The ACCC proposes new obligations on digital platforms to address scams, harmful apps, and fake reviews, measures that have been agreed to in principle by the government.

The report concludes by noting that many firms in Australia’s data ecosystem do not consider themselves ‘data brokers,’ but rather ‘data analytics businesses’ or ‘data enrichment firms.

Despite this evolution in terminology, the ACCC emphasizes the need for ongoing vigilance and reform to protect consumers in the digital age.