Artboard 1Icons/Ionic/Social/social-pinterest

Key issues for the communications sector in 2019, 2020 and beyond

04 December 2019

#Technology, Media & Telecommunications, #Data & Privacy

Key issues for the communications sector in 2019, 2020 and beyond

Privacy, the dominance of digital platforms and press freedom are key issues currently faced by the communications sector and this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future, not only in Australia but internationally.

Following the recent Law Council of Australia Media and Communications 2019 seminar hosted by Holding Redlich in Sydney, we wrap up the major points made by the two key note speakers, ACCC Chair Rod Sims and Australian Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk.

The views of the ACCC

The Chair of the ACCC, Rod Sims spoke at the event in relation to various implications of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry (Inquiry). He made a number of interesting points including why such a broad review of digital platforms was required and noted that as well as being the regulator of competition the ACCC is also the regulator of consumer issues and exploring consumer issues was an explicit part of the terms of reference of the Inquiry. 

The competition issues arise from the market power of the digital platforms in relation to their access to and control over data and the access asymmetry as between consumers and the platforms. 

Finally, he made the point that the Inquiry raised many issues which society will need to address by ensuring that new rules are developed that harness the benefits of data and reduce the harms to individuals that are becoming apparent.

Author: Lyn Nicholson

The future of privacy regulation

The Inquiry highlighted the shared objectives of Australia’s competition and consumer regulator, the ACCC, and Australia’s privacy regulator, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). As the Privacy Commissioner noted in her presentation at the Law Council seminar, one very important shared objective is to secure better data protection outcomes for all Australians.

The intersection of the concerns of the two regulators with regard to this shared objective is very apparent in the area of digital platforms, and their handling of our personal data, which is under close scrutiny by both privacy and competition and consumer protection regulators around the world. The final report from the Inquiry made a number of recommendations in relation to privacy.  The Privacy Commissioner sees these recommendations, particularly the recommendation for a broad review of Australia’s privacy framework, as providing both a challenge and an opportunity. 

This is a very important recommendation from the Inquiry, as a broad review of this framework is well overdue. The Privacy Act was first enacted in 1988. Australia, and the world, has changed significantly since that time, not least in relation to the amount of personal information that is generated and collected about individuals, particularly from their online interactions. Therefore it is the right time to ask whether the privacy framework we have adopted, known as a “notice and consent” model, where regulated entities provide information to individuals about what personal information they wish to collect and seek consent to do so, is the right model. Does this model put too much emphasis on individuals to protect their own rights, in a way that is not reflected in any other Australian consumer protection legislation? Can individual consent be truly free and informed in such cases – particularly if consumers generally have no option but to accept the privacy policy of digital platforms (and others) or not access products and services? As the Privacy Commissioner has said, these are the types of questions that we need to ask in such a review.

Another important issue that deserves close consideration is whether, as the Privacy Commissioner has noted, we should also say, as a society, that some data practices are simply “not ok”. The establishment of so called “no-go zones” in a reformed Privacy Act would go a long way to providing protection to individuals, by prohibiting particularly unfair or particularly egregious practices, irrespective of whether individuals consent to these. 

A robust debate on these and other privacy issues will ensure that Australia is able to adopt a regulatory framework that appropriately protects Australians during the next decade and beyond.

Author: Angela Flannery

Share this