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Australia seeks to dissect Big Tech algorithms & impose ‘code of conduct’ to protect privacy

Australia seeks to dissect Big Tech algorithms & impose ‘code of conduct’ to protect privacy
Australia has pledged to “lift the veil” on Big Tech’s use of citizens’ data, empowering a new branch of its antitrust authority to analyze how companies like Facebook and Google decide what ads and content to show users.

They need to be held to account and their activities need to be more transparent,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters on Friday following the release of a report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the country’s antitrust regulator.

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The new digital platforms division would be able to peek behind the curtain at what are currently proprietary algorithms determining how tech platforms choose what content, including advertisements, their users see. It would have the power to compel tech platforms to provide information, including prices charged on advertising exchanges, and could rule on whether there was enough competition in the market.

The ACCC’s report also recommended stronger privacy laws with greater protection for personal information, including the ability to have one’s data destroyed or moved to another company and the adoption of a statutory tort for the most egregious privacy invasions. Its 23 recommendations also included protections for the press, as well as a code of conduct regulating how tech platforms can profit from user-generated content and how they evaluate complaints about inaccurate information being spread on their services. The ACCC’s reforms are open to public consultation for 12 weeks before the government decides how – or if – to implement them.

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What this report finds is that so much personal data is being collected without informed consent,” Frydenberg said. 

There is no option other than to put in place the right regulatory and legislative regime to protect the public’s privacy

Citing an “overriding conclusion that there is a need for reform,” Frydenberg said the government would “lift the veil” regarding the collection of users’ data – and the process by which it is transformed into profit. He pointed to the recent $5 billion fine levied against Facebook, which while it pales in comparison to the company’s yearly income, remains the largest fine ever levied against a tech company by the US Federal Trade Commission, as proof that regulators worldwide were taking the issue of reining in abuses by Big Tech seriously.

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