Data Deep Dive Australia Advertising

Australian industry bodies warn against legislative changes to targeted advertising

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By Danielle Long, Acting APAC Editor

April 14, 2023 | 5 min read

Australia’s peak digital advertising and marketing bodies have expressed concerns about the industry-wide impact of proposed changes to the country’s privacy legislation.

Australian Government proposes changes to privacy act including restricting targeted advertising

The Australian Government is considering restricting targeted advertising as part of an overhaul of the nation's Privacy Act / Image by Gavin Bollard from Pixabay

The proposed legislative changes to Australia’s Privacy Act aim to provide citizens with greater control of their personal information, including the ability to opt out of targeted ads, erase their personal data and even sue for serious breaches of privacy.

The review, which also proposes banning targeted ads to children and a requirement for consent for the collection and use of geo-location tracking data, aims to follow European Union regulations for individual rights around general data protection.

IAB Australia and the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) have warned the suggested changes to targeted advertising could have significant flow-on effects for the industry.

In a formal response to the Attorney General’s Department Privacy Act Review Report, the AANA warned restricting targeted marketing and eliminating targeting tools “will have a significant impact on the advertising industry and the Australian economy.”

Josh Faulks, CEO of AANA, says, ‘Effectively banning behavioural or relevant advertising would not be a good result for advertisers or consumers. Many consumers welcome being served relevant advertising as they consume content. They understand that advertising is necessary to fund so much of the content – including sport and journalism, and services – such as Google Maps, that we enjoy every single day.

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"We believe that a balanced approach is necessary to protect privacy while also enabling responsible advertising to continue. The question needs to be asked, what harm does relevant advertising cause to the consumer?”

The AANA warned restricting targeted marketing may backfire by “putting potentially harmful ads in front of children and vulnerable groups.”

Megan McEwin, director of policy and regulatory affairs at AANA, says, ‘While we agree with many aspects of the proposals contained in the Government’s response, the big concern for the industry is the potential unintended consequences of proposals to restrict targeted marketing. Removing this tool will undermine responsible advertising efforts and potentially result in children and vulnerable groups being exposed to inappropriate advertising. The Privacy by Default proposal may also deprive advertising platforms of the relevant data necessary to exclude certain groups from seeing inappropriate advertising.’

The IAB also expressed concerns about the consequences of the proposals, which it claims could “severely restrict digital advertising” and impact online publishers and platforms’ ability to continue to provide free content and services.

IAB Australia CEO Gai Le Roy says the proposals “are too broadly scoped and inconsistent with international approaches.”

“Data is at the heart of IAB members’ businesses and key to the relationship they have with consumers. We strongly support a modernised privacy framework that is fit for purpose and meets consumers’ expectations – both in terms of protecting their privacy, as well as enabling them to engage in the digital economy. These goals are not mutually exclusive.

“Critically, we think the reforms should provide businesses further clarity that low-risk operational activities that fall within consumers’ expectations are not unnecessarily restricted. These activities should, at a minimum, include data processing (including data segmentation), measurement, analytics, and research.

“The digital advertising industry understands the importance of ensuring sufficient protections are in place to protect consumers’ personal information. However, we want to work with Government to ensure that the reforms don’t go too far and put the significant value that consumers receive from our industry at risk”, says Le Roy.

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