Australia pushes for data restrictions amid Google’s ad ‘dominance’

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Australia’s antitrust authority says Google’s “dominance” of the online advertising market hurts consumers and publishers — and is calling for stricter data use rules that would take a bite out of the tech giant’s profits.

A report issued Tuesday by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission focuses on Google’s access to so-called “first party data” — information about consumers collected through Google Search, Maps, YouTube and other products. 

Google’s access to this data gives the company’s advertising technology business a clear advantage over its competitors, according to the regulator. 

Lawmakers should consider banning Google from using first party data for its advertising business — or at the very lest require the company to publicly disclose how it uses such data, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission argued. 

Information about consumers collected through Google Search, Maps, YouTube and other products helps Google maintain a dominant position in the ad market, Australia’s competition regulator found.
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Google’s position in Australia’s $2 billion online ad market is so dominant that more than 90 percent of online advertisements seen by Australians in 2020 involved at least one Google service. 

“Google has used its vertically integrated position to operate its ad tech services in a way that has, over time, led to a less competitive ad tech industry,” said Rod Sims, the chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. “This conduct has helped Google to establish and entrench its dominant position.”

Google did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the report. 

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Google’s position in Australia’s $2 billion online ad market is so dominant that more than 90 percent of online advertisements seen by Australians in 2020 involved at least one Google service.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Australian push for greater regulation of Google’s ad business echoes similar initiatives in the European Union and the United Kingdom, where regulators are also trying to prevent the tech giant from using first party data from maps and YouTube to target ads. 

In the US, the Justice Department has been pursuing an antitrust suit against Google for the past year that accuses the company of maintaining “unlawful monopolies” in search and ads.

Sims told Reuters he expects the global push for regulation of Google to give Australia more leverage and make the tech giant more likely to cooperate. 

“I just think [Google] can see what’s happening and it’s in their interests that these rules are aligned [between countries] and it’s in their interests that they’re really well thought through,” the antitrust chief told the outlet. 

Australian authorities have also taken a hard line against Google on behalf of news publishers. 

Amid growing pressure from Australia’s government, Google signed a three-year deal this February with New York Post parent company News Corp., which agreed to provide content from its news sites around the globe to Google in exchange for “significant payments” worth tens of millions of dollars from the search giant.

Days later, Australia’s parliament passed a law effectively forcing Facebook and other tech titans to pay for news content. 



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