Traditionally profitable sections of print newspapers such as real estate and classifieds, which once offset the cost of researching and reporting quality journalism, now face intense competition from online sites.

At the same time, advertising has evolved. Online advertising provides advertisers with richer tools to reach their target audience and measure the impact of their investment.

‘Richer tools’ is a keyword

Let’s say I wanted to advertise to all the left-handed golfers who drink wine and play regularly at Sydney courses. Google can deliver this. My 90% shotgun miss turns into a 90% sniper hit. And hopefully, my new left-handed corkscrew is of interest to them at the 19th hole!

Microsoft, Apple, Google (Alphabet), Facebook (WhatsApp, Instagram), Telcos, finance/banks/credit card, loyalty programs, flashlight apps etc, voice assistants (Amazon Alexa, Google assistant, Siri etc) collect data. Many swap data – it is easy using our unique advertising ID – to develop profiles to laser target us.

The problem is that some collect data responsibly and some don’t. And some users could not give a ‘rats’ despite media repeating ‘if a service is free the service is you’.

Google supports smart regulation that reflects trade-offs [information you make available] that in return help society reap the benefits of new technologies, minimise societal costs, and respect fundamental rights [privacy or the right to control how much you disclose].

Privacy – this is the crux

Google rightly mentions that it has to operate under the Australian Privacy Act, the ​General Data Protection Regulation ​(EU) 2016/679​ (GDPR), the Fair Information Practices Principles (FIPPs), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Privacy Principles, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Privacy Framework, and many other existing regulatory approaches.

Do tech companies have too much power

As the world shrinks – globalisation – we need a single Digital Bill of Rights – not a mismatch of impossibly complex and overlapping rules.

GadgetGuy’s take: Money is the root of all evil

The problem is that technological advancement costs money – big money. Part of that comes from advertising which has always been a legitimate part of the cost of goods or services.

Do tech companies have too much power

We should rename the ACCC enquiry “Hey, you, get off my cloud” (with apologies to the Rolling Stones). Traditional publishers are defending their turf – except that the grass is much greener on the new digital publishing scene. Traditional advertising placement agencies want to regain the advertising dollar except their offerings are not as good – marketers want micro-targeted.

What the 113 submissions to the ACCC prove beyond doubt that self-interest is top of the list and its easy to create a convenient common enemy to hate – Google.

You must trust someone – but who?

Apple users trust Apple. Windows users trust Microsoft. Android users trust Google. All three companies have solid commitments to user privacy, and overall GadgetGuy understands why we trust these companies.

Do tech companies have too much power

Interestingly, according to Forbes RepTrak most trusted 100 global companies (based on 230,000 surveys)

  • Google at 3 (Millennials who value services more than governance place Google at #1)
  • Microsoft at 10
  • Amazon at 23
  • Netflix at 24
  • Samsung at 26
  • HP at 28
  • Dell 40
  • LG 41 (it is the most trusted electronics brand in Australia)
  • Apple 58

But that won’t stop us warning users to be cautious online, not to overshare, use products like ShutUp10 and to lock down privacy settings – if they wish.

If any of these companies did abuse trust (as defined in the new online world) by helping to influence elections, sell data, commit cyber snooping etc., then it would spell the end of that company – media would ramp up #DeleteFacebook et al. Hats off to Apple for telling the FBI where to go!