Australia to scrutinize Google, Facebook activities

Sydney: Australia on Friday said it would form a dedicated department to keep check on Facebook and Google as part of reforms to protect privacy of consumers and ensure antitrust laws are respected in the country.

The measure to control the market dominance of the technology giants and police their activities was recommended by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the antitrust watchdog for protection of consumer rights and rein in illegal anti-competitive behaviour.

It comes in the context of concerns over the power the technology companies have in the market and the influence over the people through collection of personal data of consumers, Efe news reported.

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On Friday, the ACCC released 23 recommendations along with its final report on the impact of digital search engines, social media platforms and digital content aggregators on the state of competition in media and advertising services markets.

The study was commissioned by the government in 2017.

Among other measure, the watchdog has recommended establishment of a special branch of the ACCC “to pro-actively monitor and investigate potentially anti-competitive conduct by digital platforms”.

“Make no mistake, these companies are among the most powerful and valuable in the world,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said as he released the report on regulating of digital platforms.

Frydenberg said these multinationals needed to be “held to account and their activities need to be more transparent”.

The government also emphasized that digital platforms collect and use a large amount of personal information about consumers who need to be informed about the data collected as well as by whom and how it is being used.

Frydenberg said there was a need to develop a media regulatory framework to “ensure that substantial market power is not used to lessen competition in media and advertising services markets”.

ACCC chair Rod Sims in a statement said that the recommendations were “comprehensive and forward looking and deal with the many competition, consumer, privacy and news media issues we have identified throughout the course of this inquiry”.

However, Sunita Bose, Managing Director of Digital Industry Group, which represents Google, Facebook and Twitter, urged caution to the government.

“We’re closely reviewing these recommendations to ensure they don’t bring unintended consequences to all digital businesses and the choice of digital products available to Australian consumers,” she said in a statement.

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