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Consumers unaware how their data is collected, used and shared, finds ACCC

Many consumers are at risk due to misunderstandings about where their data is used – and when it is collected in activities such as restaurants that require the input of personal details when placing an order through a QR code.

In a report, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) highlighted that collected data may be used for potential identification and targeting of vulnerable consumers.

For example, the ACCC said that a consumer segment that identifies people as ‘frequent gamblers’ may be used to promote gambling products to people suffering from gambling addiction.

Lowe explained that data firms collect information through online and offline channels to create and sell data services to business customers across various sectors.

“As consumers are increasingly required to provide personal information or other data on themselves to access important services, such as applying for a rental property or receiving an insurance quote, we are very concerned that consumers may be unable to exercise choice or meaningful control over how their data is shared and used,” said ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe.

Moreover, the ACCC pointed out that data firms place contractual obligations in agreements with business customers or data suppliers, limiting a competitor’s access to data and thus, harming competition.

“In many cases, the data firms do not have a direct relationship with the consumers whose data may be used,” said Lowe.

The ACCC has already proposed new measures, such as mandatory obligations on all digital platforms to address scams, harmful apps and fake reviews, including notice and action requirements and stronger verification of business users and reviews.

“Data is a critical commodity in today’s economy as it helps businesses create innovative products and tailor new services for consumers,” said Lowe.

“Its importance will only increase with the rise of artificial intelligence.”

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