The majority of Australians are oblivious to how much of their data is sold by third-party brokers and where it ends up, the consumer watchdog says.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is probing third-party data brokers, which have no direct relationship with consumers.
Instead – and often unbeknownst to Australians – they buy consumers’ data from a range of sources including social media sites, search engines, apps, loyalty programs, card payment providers and electoral rolls.
They then take that data, which can include names, ages, home and work addressees and browsing and purchasing history, and sell it onto businesses who want an in-depth look at the market.
The watchdog has concerns about third-party data brokers given consumers are often unaware of them, and can have their data sold without giving express consent.
The commission also wants consumers to have the option to easily opt out of the brokers’ data collection, especially since almost three-quarters of Australians are uncomfortable with companies sharing or selling their personal information.
“We’re absolutely certain that most Australians are absolutely in the dark about (third-party data brokers),” commission chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb told AAP.
“Vast amounts of detailed data are being captured, collected, aggregated (and) analysed.
“They are the basis of many of the services that are being supplied in the digital world.
“They’re also informing standard products and services and the way they’re being sold, promoted and who they’re being pitched to.”
Third-party data brokers often packaged data with analysis, creating audience profiling reports for businesses, for instance, along with risk and fraud management products and services for use in insurance and tenancy applications.
Insurance companies and landlords could then use the data to make decisions on tenancy applications, Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
“(Third-party data brokers) are important in the daily lives of consumers,” she said.
The commission was concerned about companies relying on potentially inaccurate or incomplete data sets from third-party brokers.
Incorrect data could mean an insurance company falsely identified someone as a “risk”, or a bank rejected a potential client, Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
The commission is urging consumers, businesses and third-party data brokers to share their experiences by responding to an issues paper on data brokers by August 7.
The paper will inform the watchdog’s eighth report to the treasurer, due in March 2024, as part of its five-year digital platform services inquiry.
The watchdog will also probe whether businesses who don’t have access to data brokers are at a disadvantage in its report on the issue.
(Australian Associated Press)