ACCC boss slams digital assistant devices amid privacy fears
ACCC boss slams digital assistant devices amid privacy fears

How tech giants are really spying on you

THE  nation's top consumer protection cop says there's "no way in the world" he'd have a device such as Google Home listening to everything being said in his house.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the release of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's landmark digital platforms inquiry report late last month, chairman Rod Sims said most people he'd talked to were "outraged" about tech titans' collection and use of their private data.

But his most pointed comments were about digital assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo - now said to be owned by nearly six million Australians.

Google Home promises to make life easier. But is it worth the privacy risk?
Google Home promises to make life easier. But is it worth the privacy risk?

Mr Sims said consumers didn't have clear information about what was being done with the information recorded by the devices.

"There is no way in the world I would have Google Home or the equivalents in my home," Mr Sims told journalists following a speech to the Melbourne Press Club.

"Why do I want a device listening to everything I say?"

Mr Sims said the ACCC had a role in helping consumers understand what the digital giants did know about them.

"If people, once they are aware, want to have these devices in their home then that's obviously perfectly fine.

"But they need to know in really clear terms - which they don't now and I don't know either - how much information is going back to home base, what exactly is being done with it and who it's going to.

"They need to know all that."

Rod Sims says consumers don’t have clear information about how their data is being used. Picture: John Feder/The Australian
Rod Sims says consumers don’t have clear information about how their data is being used. Picture: John Feder/The Australian

Among the 23 recommendations in the digital platforms inquiry final report is toughening the Privacy Act including through new financial penalties as well as strengthening consent requirements.

"There's a lot we don't know about what's happening with the data," Mr Sims said.

"What I do know is the companies who own those machines are making a lot of money out of data."

To emphasise his argument about what Facebook and Google know, Mr Sims referred to Federal Court action the ACCC launched earlier this month against the website HealthEngine over the alleged sale of consumer data such as names, home addresses, birthdates and clinics visited.

HealthEngine users "were outraged that they'd do that", Mr Sims said.

"The information that Google and Facebook have is massively more than that.

"They know all that. They know which doctor you visited. They know which floor you are on in the building," Mr Sims said.

"I've met a few people trying to argue in a public policy sense that people don't care but every time I've had a discussion individually with people, they are outraged."

Mr Sims said he couldn't say whether he was personally outraged.

However he did say he was confident the Federal Government would act to rein in the digital heavyweights through regulation.

"It's now an intolerable position," he said.

The Government, which commissioned the inquiry, is consulting publicly on the ACCC's recommendations until October 24.


Hands-on experience for state football players

premium_icon Hands-on experience for state football players

Reds rugby union players get their hands dirty on a dry and dusty Emerald farm

CFMEU to monitor CQ mine after evacuation

premium_icon CFMEU to monitor CQ mine after evacuation

Anglo American reassures safety of workers company’s first priority

‘Grubby’ use of hospital statistics to ‘confuse public’

premium_icon ‘Grubby’ use of hospital statistics to ‘confuse public’

Political ‘mud slinging’ ‘misuses’ Rockhampton Hospital data