“Few consumers are fully informed of, nor can they effectively control, how their data is going to be used and shared. There are further concerns when the service they sign up to is taken over by another business,” said Sims, the chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Sims expressed his concerns when speaking at the Consumer Policy Research Conference (CPRC) Conference on the ACCC’s perspectives on consumer welfare in the data economy.
Sims raised his concerns in relation to Google’s recently announced proposed acquisition of Fitbit.
Sims noted that, at the time of Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick, DoubleClick reportedly denied that the data it collects through its system for serving ads would be combined with Google’s search data.
Sims also pointed to the fact that when Facebook acquired WhatsApp, Facebook claimed it was unable to establish reliable matching between Facebook users and WhatsApp users’ accounts.
“Given the history of digital platforms making statements as to what they intend to do with data and what they actually do down the track, it is a stretch to believe any commitment Google makes in relation Fitbit users’ data will still be in place five years from now.”
“Clearly, personal health data is an increasingly valuable commodity so it is important when consumers sign up to a particular health platform their original privacy choices are respected and their personal data is protected even if that company is sold.”
Research from the ACCC inquiry showed around 80% of users considered digital platforms tracking their online behaviour to create profiles, and also the sharing their personal information with an unknown third party, is a misuse of their information.
“Facebook’s recent announcement of its planned offering of a cryptocurrency Libra is also a potential cause for concern, said Sims.
“Here we have an organisation, whose lifeblood is to monetise data, getting into the financial services industry.
“A lack of clear information about how their data will be handled reduces consumers’ ability to make informed choices based on that data.
“During our DPI we found a lack of consumer protection and effective deterrence of poor data practises have undermined consumer’s ability to choose products.
“Vague, long and complex data policies contribute to this substantial disconnect between how consumers think their data should be treated and how it is actually treated.”