Industry relief as Privacy Act shake-up leaves targeting and direct marketing alone, for now

The Australian Government has knocked back proposals that would significantly change targeted advertising and direct marketing, as part of a major review of the Privacy Act.

However, children’s advertising is likely to be countered with more regulations.

On Thursday, attorney-general Mark Dreyfus announced the outcome of the Privacy Act review. After consulting industry submissions from earlier this year, the Government has agreed to 38 of the 116 recommendations initially outlined for the Privacy Act.

An additional 68 proposals were only “agreed in principle”, reflecting the need for further consultation or a longer time frame for the changes that the Government wishes to support.

10 recommendations were just ‘noted,’ which is the equivalent of a rejection.

Those agreed in-principle proposals included giving individuals the unqualified right to opt-out of their personal information being used for direct marketing, or protecting their sensitive information from being used for targeting.

The Government flagged further considerations on introducing measures such as layered opt-out and industry codes, which will specify how individuals’ information is used in online advertising. There will also be a differentiation between ‘targeted advertising’ and ‘targeted content’.

Meanwhile, a Children’s Online Privacy code will be developed to introduce targeting, direct marketing and trading requirements for advertisers when their audiences are people under 18.

IAB CEO Gai Le Roy welcomed the outcome of the review, after the organisation’s previous warning that proposals related to targeting and direct marketing were too broad and ill-defined.

“At first glance it is pleasing to see that the Government has not agreed to adopt the report’s proposal to enable individuals to opt-out of targeted advertising – that proposal simply would not have been workable,” she said.

Sarla Fernando, director of regulatory & advocacy at the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA), said: “The Government’s response to the Privacy Act Review Report has some sensible ways forward in addressing the key concerns raised by ADMA in its submission – which followed extensive industry consultation.

“While the response is encouraging, the journey is far from over, there is still work to be done to ensure that those proposals that are ‘agreed in principle’, progress in a way that makes sense and achieves its objective.”

The Government also “agreed in principle” to introduce a statutory tort for serious invasions of privacy, a measure that publishers including Guardian Australia warned against earlier this year.

“[It] would significantly hamper the media’s ability to publish the identity of wealthy business people or celebrities in coverage of matters that are of public interest,” the publisher’s then-managing director Dan Stinton told Mumbrella.

After the backlash, the Government has agreed to introduce guardrails to protect public interest journalism in consultation with media organisations, should the statutory tort reform be implemented.

Legislation implementing the changes is expected to be introduced next year.


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