A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at a Digital Masterclass event. The other speakers were covering a lot of the usual, sexy digital topics – like how to use influencers for content generation or how you can gain consumer insights through digital platforms.

I chose to speak about data and privacy.

Marketing suicide was one of the terms levelled at me by a colleague – why talk about something as bland and boring as privacy when you’re competing for attention from a room full of potential clients?

The reason I chose the topic was because of some of the work we had done in recent times with a handful of our clients on the European GDPR laws. This work provided an insight into how businesses that serviced European citizens (not just businesses headquartered in Europe) needed to fundamentally re-think the way their marketing operated. Combine that experience with the subtle hints coming out of Canberra about online privacy and I was convinced that we were on the precipice of a huge disruption to our industry that every client and prospect needed to start preparing for straight away.

It may not be sexy, and it may not be a topic that marketers naturally gravitate to when they spill into the bars around Melbourne on Friday afternoons – but in the near future it will become something they have to talk about... a lot.

Today the ACCC metaphorically ‘dropped the mic’ with the delivery of the Digital Platforms Inquiry - Final Report. Given it was only released a few hours ago I am not going to pretend I have had a chance to read and digest it all (it’s not like we have the Budget-style media lock-up after all) – but you don’t need to have trawled through all 600 pages to see the writing is on the wall.

The headlines in mainstream media will be all about how the Australian Government is going to crack down on Facebook and Google, and while this could have big implications we all know that these tech giants know how to handle legislators. Yes, there will be impacts, but they aren’t going to happen overnight and they will be watered down to something that is pretty meaningless in practical terms by the time they come into effect. The real kicker is in the details around privacy and data handling that will hit every company that has a digital presence – unless of course you aren’t using any type of cookies, any type of analytics tool or any form of paid online advertising. If you are neck deep in personalisation, segmentation, automation, CDPs, DSPs or the like then you need to pay attention.

In effect the ACCC is advocating for GDRP style laws here in Australia – just listen to some of these recommendations from the report - strengthen notification requirements, strengthened consent requirements and pro-consumer defaults, enable the erasure of personal information and higher penalties for breaches of the Privacy Act. Sound familiar? If you have lived through GDPR then they should be, as these are the fundamentals of those laws.

The question still remains if the political will is there to follow through. Leading up to the release today our view was that the government felt empowered to drive change. Today the Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher had his limelight stolen by the Treasurer who decided he wanted to headline the release.

Josh Frydenberg is quoted as saying he accepted the “overriding conclusion” of the report and that reform was needed to better protect consumers and improve transparency. This very upfront, pro-active response from the government is the strongest indicator yet that they have serious intentions to reform the industry. We sit here today totally convinced that change is coming.

There will now be a 12-week public feedback period before debate starts in Canberra in earnest, so there is time to start to prepare. If you want to understand more about how this may impact your business or how you can best prepare for the change then feel free to contact us for a chat.

You can review the full Digital Platforms Inquiry final report (if you are that way inclined) here - https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/digital-platforms-inquiry-final-report

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