Google, Meta push back against changes to privacy laws

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Google, Meta push back against changes to privacy laws

Meta said consumers prefer to pay with their data than their wallets.

Meta has opposed consumers’ ‘right to object’ to the collection, use and disclosure of their data, while Google has opposed defining all location data as sensitive data, in submissions to the Attorney-General’s review of Australia’s privacy laws.

Facebook’s parent company said in its submission to the review of the Privacy Act that the proposed right to object to data collection overlooked that “Australian consumers benefit from being able to access free digital services, funded by personalised advertising.”

The Privacy Act Review — Discussion Paper said that “77 percent of respondents” to a 2020 survey by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner “were supportive of having a right to object to certain data practices (for example, selling of personal information) while still being able to access and use the service.”

However, Meta hit back by saying that Australians also prefer paying for digital services with their data than their money.

Meta cited a survey by America’s Digital Advertising Alliance, which said: “When asked whether they prefer an ad-supported internet where most services are free or an ad-free internet where everything costs money, 84.1 percent of respondents indicated they would prefer an ad-supported internet.”

Meta also said the right to object could harm small businesses who relied on “free, ad-supported Meta apps”.

 Meta said a recent Deloitte survey found that “71 percent of Australian small businesses that use personalised advertising reported that it is important for the success of their business.”

 “Particularly over the past two years, personalised advertising has helped businesses target new customers as they have needed to pivot away from bricks-and-mortar operations during the pandemic,” the company said.

Meta also said any consumer right to object to data collection and disclosure needed to be accompanied with a service provider’s right to “cease providing services to individuals who object to their personal information being used in ways that are necessary to provide the service.”

In its submission, Google also rejected the discussion paper’s suggestion to expand the definition of sensitive data to location data, saying it depended “on how identifiable the individual is and the degree to which the collection of location data would naturally be expected by the individual.”

 “Location data that posistions someone within a suburb or postcode but not a specific address should not be considered personal information, let alone a sensitive data category”.

 “For most advertising use cases location data is no more specific than a geographic area of at least 3 square [kilometres] and containing at least 1000 users,” Google said in their submission.

Meta and Google both questioned the proposal that consumers must be notified when a “primary purpose” for the collection or use of their data is “to influence an individual’s behaviour or decisions.”

 The online platforms said that consumers appreciate being informed about services and products, the requirement unfairly targeted personalised advertising.

 “Google seeks only to show ads that are helpful and relevant to people…Furthermore, one could argue that all forms of advertising are seeking to influence behaviour or decisions."

 Meta said “this proposal seems narrowly designed to disparage online targeted advertising…consumers already understand that advertising services may raise awareness about products, services, events or causes that they were not previously aware of.”

The review of the Privacy Act was announced in December 2019 as part of the government’s response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissioner's 2019 Digital Platforms Inquiry, which called for greater privacy protections for consumers against online platforms like Google and Meta [then Facebook].

The review will consider a number of significant changes to the Privacy Act, such as a consumer’s right to request the erasure of personal information a company has collected, and whether a statutory tort for serious invasions of privacy should be introduced.

Submissions to the review were published on the Attorney General’s website today, including Service’s Australia’s response, which expressed “significant concern” that “wholesale changes” to critical whole-of-government IT systems would be needed to accommodate the proposed reforms to the definition of personal information.

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