Australian antitrust body wants to closely monitor Google, Facebook

It's one of the Australian antitrust watchdog's proposals after investigating the tech giants.

Back in April, Australia passed a bill that seeks to punish social networks for failing to remove violent content from their platforms. Now, the country's antitrust watchdog wants to establish a unit dedicated to keeping an eye on the tech giant's activities. It's one of the 23 proposals written in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) 623-page report on the tech giants' anti-competitive behavior in the country. According to Reuters, the dedicated unit within the commission will look closely into how the companies use algorithms to match users with ads.

The ACCC also called for a new code of conduct for the tech giants that will allow "consumers [to] know and control what data is collected and how it is used." It has advised the government to beef up Australia's Privacy Act, as well, and to establish a scheme to resolve consumers' complaints against digital platforms. The commission studied both companies for 18 months before handing over its report to the government, concluding that the law allows firms to collect and use personal data without informed consent and in ways users do not understand.

Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer of Australia, said the $5 billion fine the FTC slapped Facebook for the Cambridge Analytica data breach "is a reflection of how peoples' personal data is being used often without their knowledge."

He also said:

"[Google and Facebok] need to be held to account and their activities need to be more transparent... There is no option other than to put in place the right regulatory and legislative regime to protect the public's privacy."

Whether a dedicated office truly will keep a closer eye on the tech giants' activities in Australia remains to be seem. The proposals will still have to go through a 12-week public consultation process before the Australian government acts on any of them. Google told Reuters that it will continue communicating with the government regarding the proposals during the consultation process.