ACCC: Online data collection a murky area for most

By AdNews | 21 May 2024

Consumers are generally unaware how much of their data is collected, used and shared with data firms and other businesses, according to the latest Digital Platform Services Inquiry report from competition watchdog the ACCC.

Data firms collect consumer data from a range of online and offline sources and use it to create and sell across many industries for a variety of purposes, including data-driven marketing and advertising.

Long and complex privacy policies that use ambiguous language or take-it-or-leave-it terms make it difficult for consumers to understand, intentionally consent to and control what happens to their data, the report said. 

The ACCC expressed concern about the growing risk of consumers being re-identified as datasets are combined with additional data points, as well as highlighting the potential targeting of vulnerable consumers.

ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said data is a critical commodity in today’s economy as it helps businesses create innovative products and tailor new services, and its importance will only increase with the rise of artificial intelligence.

“This report shines a light on a relatively unknown part of the data ecosystem and examines the data products and services supplied by data firms. In many cases, the data firms do not have a direct relationship with the consumers whose data may be used," she said.

“As consumers are increasingly required to provide personal information or other data on themselves to access important services, such as applying for a rental property or receiving an insurance quote, we are very concerned that consumers may be unable to exercise choice or meaningful control over how their data is shared and used.”

This is the eighth report in the ACCC’s five-year Digital Platform Services Inquiry.

The seventh report found that as digital platform service providers expand, they have greater access to rich consumer data, which they can collect and use throughout their ecosystems of products and services.

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