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Google Writes Open Letter to Australians, Warning Free Services and Your Data “At Risk”

Google has penned an open letter to Australians, warning that the Federal Government's plan to make tech giants pay for Australian news content will put their free services at risk, along with users' search data.
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Google has penned an open letter to Australians, warning that the Federal Government’s plan to make tech giants pay for Australian news content will put their free services at risk, along with users’ search data.

ABC News reports: “Two weeks ago the Federal Government released a draft code of conduct for digital platforms and Australian media businesses that would make internet heavyweights Facebook and Google pay for the privilege of hosting Australian news… The principle underpinning the draft code is that there is a power imbalance between media companies in Australia and the tech giants that host their content.”

In response to the move, Google warned Australians that the proposed changes are “not fair” and they mean that Google search results and YouTube will be “dramatically worse” for their users.

Australians who visit Google are now be met with a notification, stating: “The way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new Government regulation.”

The notice is linked to an open letter penned by Managing Director Mel Silva, who said:

“The law would force us to give an unfair advantage to one group of businesses – news media businesses – over everyone else who has a website, YouTube channel or small business. News media businesses alone would be given information that would help them artificially inflate their ranking over everyone else, even when someone else provides a better result.

“We’ve always treated all website owners fairly when it comes to information we share about ranking. The proposed changes are not fair and they mean that Google Search results and YouTube will be worse for you.”

Ms Silva also warned that new regulations may also put user’s search data at risk.

“You trust us with your data and our job is to keep it safe. Under this law, Google has to tell news media businesses “how they can gain access” to data about your use of our products. There’s no way of knowing if any data handed over would be protected, or how it might be used by news media businesses,” she said.

The Government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) responded to Google’s letter, saying it contains “misinformation.”

“The open letter published by Google today contains misinformation about the draft News Media Bargaining Code,” a statement from the ACCC read.

“Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube unless it chooses to do so.”

Business Insider said efforts from other countries to force tech giants to pay up have had little success in the past.

“The European Union and several individual European countries have in the past attempted to force Google to pay publishers for displaying their content – with generally bad results. For example, the Spanish government’s effort to introduce a ‘link tax’ led to Google pulling its News product from the country altogether in 2014.”

Ms Silva said the search giant is going to do everything they possibly can to get the proposal changed.

“You’ll hear more from us in the coming days,” she said. “Stay tuned.”


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