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Australia takes on Google advertising dominance amid wider media shakeup

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) new proposals aim to shakeup digital advertising and challenge the dominance of Google and Facebook.

A 3D printed Google logo is placed on broken glass in front of displayed Australian flag in this illustration taken, January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration A 3D printed Google logo is placed on broken glass in front of displayed Australian flag in this illustration taken, January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
A 3D printed Google logo is placed on broken glass in front of displayed Australian flag in this illustration taken, January 22, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration (REUTERS)

Australia announced on Thursday it may let internet users choose which data they give to Big Tech companies like Google, limiting the internet giants' ability to access users' online histories to cross-sell products.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) new proposals aim to shakeup digital advertising and challenge the dominance of Google and Facebook Inc.

The regulator's Thursday statement also said the country might introduce a system of anonymised internet user identifications so advertisers can monitor which other advertisements their prospective customers click.

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The proposals add a new element to the antitrust regulator's campaign to check the power of the online behemoths in the country's struggling media market.

Already the government plans to make the so-called Big Tech players pay media outlets for content which drives traffic to their websites, a measure the internet companies oppose. The digital advertising proposals would seek to lessen those companies' grip on the A$3.4 billion ($2.6 billion) online ad market.

"There is a real lack of competition, choice and transparency in this industry," said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims in a statement, which estimated Google's share of Australian advertising revenue between 50% and 100%, depending on the service.

"These issues add to the cost of advertising for businesses, which will ultimately impact the prices paid by consumers," Sims added.

Letting internet users choose which internet platform they share their search data with may promote competition between suppliers of online advertising and lessen the competitive advantage of large platforms, the ACCC said in its 222-page interim report on the digital advertising market. A final report is scheduled to be sent to the government in August.

Representatives for Google and Facebook in Australia were not immediately available for comment.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a statement that the government "notes the ACCC's concerns over competitiveness and the continued dominance of tech giants" but did not say whether he supported the proposals.

"We need to ensure our regulatory frameworks keep pace with the changes being driven by digital platforms," the statement said.

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