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Australian watchdog to call on Google and Facebook to reveal their algorithms

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Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission, (ACCC) has just released a 623-page report into Google and Facebook’s anti-competitive practices.

23 recommendations have come out of the report, among them the setting up of a special office, or branch, of the ACCC that would monitor and investigate tech giants for breaches of competition and consumer rules.

Australia has outlined its desire to find out how exactly Google and Facebook use algorithms “to make money out of user data they collect.”

If ACCC’s recommendations are approved, one way to do it would be two order the tech companies to provide information to the watchdog. The regulator has also recommended legislative changes aimed at containing their acquisition and merger activities targeting smaller companies and amending the country’s privacy laws.

Changes would be made to the Privacy Act to allow users more control over their data, including to have it moved between companies, or deleted.

The ACCC also found that the two tech behemoths are harming competition as they dominate Australia’s “news and advertising markets.”

However, the regulator has not recommended spinning off parts of either company as a way to confine their influence – and Google and Facebook will not be “forced to pay for news content.”

This last point was something argued in favor of by Australian publishers, including News Corp, who have been losing advertising revenues to tech platforms.

Reacting to the Commission’s report on Friday, News Corp welcomed it and said it was now clear the government “is going to do something” about the behavior of Facebook and Google.

But that’s yet to happen, as the Australian government will announce its reaction after consultations that will last three months.

And if the government approves the Commission’s suggestions, Google Search will no longer be the default on phones running Google’s Android operating system.

Then there’s fake news: the ACCC recommendations would have tech giants come up with “industry rules about how to respond to reports of fake news – or misinformation presented as news – that could lead to ‘serious public detriment’,” website is reporting.

Under the recommendations, a code of conduct would be put in place to protect the publisher’s revenues, including by notifying them in advance about tech platform’s plans to change the way they rank news.

The code would also serve to regulate “negotiations between the platforms and news businesses on the sharing of revenue from advertising.”

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