'Serious consideration' required on collection of citizens' data

'Serious consideration' required on collection of citizens' data

ACCC and OAIC want stronger protections in the Privacy Act

Credit: ID 115930702 © Funtap P |

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has advised that serious consideration is required over the increased collection of citizens' data through new technologies and devices.

Published on 26 July, the Digital Platforms Inquiry report covers competition law, consumer protection, media regulation and privacy law in relation to issues arising from digital platforms' growth.

In point eight of the report, which addressed emerging harm from scams, AI and other new technology, the ACCC said increased adoption of smart devices has expanded the potential for data collection, bringing both benefits and risks.

The report stated that the increase in data collection via internet of thing (IoT) devices and the roll-out of 5G is likely to have significant implications for the social contracts between consumers, companies and governments

According to ACCC, the improvement in data analysis can bring both positive and negative results to consumers "as extremely detailed information on individuals’ behaviour and attributes can be collected, compiled and accessed by both governments and private companies".

"This includes an unprecedented capacity for government agencies and private companies to gain oversight and control of the lives of individuals. Policy makers will need to actively engage with the implications of these developments when formulating policy, and considering regulatory reform."

In order to improve privacy protection, the ACCC has recommended:

  • strengthening protections in the Privacy Act;
  • broader reform of the Australian privacy law framework;
  • the introduction of a privacy code of practice specifically for digital platforms;
  • the introduction of a statutory tort for serious invasions of privacy;

"We’re very concerned that current privacy policies offer consumers the illusion of control but instead are almost legal waivers that give digital platforms’ broad discretion about how they can use consumers’ data," ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

"Due to growing concerns in this area, we believe some of the privacy reforms we have recommended should apply economy wide."

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) welcomed the Australian Government’s recognition that privacy laws must be strengthened.

"Organisations entrusted with our personal information need to be more transparent and accountable in their handling of our data and their dealings with the public," Australian information and privacy commissioner Angelene Falk said.

"We also need the right safeguards and settings so that Australians can manage their privacy choices and exercise control.

"The proposed Privacy Code for digital platforms should include specific requirements for notice and consent to allow people to make an informed choice about the use of their data," Falk said.

"In developing the Code, we’ll look at additional requirements for handling children’s data so that its collection, use and disclosure is minimised, particularly for targeted advertising and online profiling."

The OAIC also recommended a broader reform of Australian privacy law and other recommendations including:

  • stronger consent requirements weighted in favour of the consumer;
  • a broader definition of personal information, including technical and location data;
  • measures to require personal information to be erased on request;
  • a direct right of action for individuals and a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy.

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