Google warns Australia could lose free search services

WION Web Team
New York, New York, United States of America Published: Aug 17, 2020, 12:06 PM(IST)

Google Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The US-based company's warning, contained in what it called an "Open letter to Australians," comes a week before public consultations close on Australian draft laws that would make both Google and Facebook pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies.

Internet giant Google on Monday criticised proposed Australian antitrust laws, saying its free search service would be "at risk" and users' personal data could be shared if it is made to pay news organisations for their content.

The US-based company's warning, contained in what it called an "Open letter to Australians," comes a week before public consultations close on Australian draft laws that would make both Google and Facebook pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies.

Google said the proposed laws would also help big media companies artificially inflate their search rankings, luring more viewers to their platforms and giving them an unfair advantage over small publishers and users of Google's YouTube streaming website.

The statement, advertised on Google's main search page, marks an escalation of tensions between big tech companies and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which has called for sweeping changes to rein in how Google and social media titan Facebook Inc use local content and consumer data.

"You've always relied on Google Search and YouTube to show you what's most relevant and helpful to you," Google Australia Managing Director Mel Silva wrote in the open letter. 

"We could no longer guarantee that under this law."

The proposed law "wouldn't just impact the way Google and YouTube work with news media businesses - it would impact all of our Australian users" she wrote.

The ACCC accused Google of publishing "misinformation" and said the laws would not require the US company to charge Australians for its services or share any personal data.

The proposed law would "allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists' work that is included on Google services", ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

"This will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook," he added.

Google has been battling the Australian consumer watchdog on two fronts. Last month, the watchdog launched court action against Google for allegedly misleading account holders about its use of their personal data.

The commission alleges that Google misled millions of Australians to obtain their consent and expand the scope of personal information that it collects about users' internet activity to target advertising. Google denies the allegations. 

(with inputs from agencies)

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