“Beyond the almost meaningless term ‘personalisation’, there is no mention of the inferences that will be drawn from the data and metadata that will be collected: how an individual will be classified nor the implications.”
“They are literally breaking the law because they’re not gaining consent,” Mr Crompton told The Australian Financial Review.
“It’s not that I don’t want to be tracked. I actively don’t want to be personalised, vigorously don’t want to be personalised,” Mr Crompton said, querying why it was being made mandatory.
“Why do they have to make it compulsory? Nobody’s answered that question.”
His comments were echoed by former NSW deputy privacy commissioner Anna Johnston and founder of consulting group Salinger Privacy.
“The ABC should not be mandating log-ins. It is publicly funded, it doesn’t need to survive on advertising the way that even SBS does in part, as well as the commercial networks,” Ms Johnston said.
“There’s no compelling business reason for the ABC to be tracking what their viewers are watching.”
The ABC has followed its broadcasting peers, including SBS, and has announced all users of its popular internet-on-demand platform will have to create an account to use iview from July.
The ABC was a leader in video on-demand when it rolled out iview in 2008 and its on-demand service is the clear market leader.
Some 8.6 million Australians view at least one of the broadcast on-demand service each month, Roy Morgan research shows. ABC’s iview is the market leader with 5.13 million viewers per month, which has climbed by 2.12 million viewers over the last year.
The wide availability of smart internet-connected TVs has seen a strong growth in on-demand services from the free-to-air networks, with total viewing minutes across the sector climbing 40 per cent in financial year 2020, industry association FreeTV says.
The ABC push to mandate users to sign in is being promoted as an improvement in personalisation, enabling users to be sent recommendations, to create a watch list, to access their viewing history and to continue watching from where a viewer left off or on an alternative device.
“The ABC remains committed to the rollout of ABC iview log-ins to meet the needs and expectations of Australians, the vast majority of whom are used to having log-ins to watch content on-demand and want the personalisation features that such accounts provide,” an ABC spokesman said.
“Nothing about having to create a log-in for ABC iview changes our editorial independence, integrity or responsibility, including the privacy and data protections people expect of the ABC.”
“The ABC will never sell such data and will always give users the ability to opt out of any marketing communications or data sharing with third parties if they log in via the ABC,” the spokesman said.
The ABC is still considering if the log-in mandate will be extended to the radio Listen app.
Mr Crompton also said the mandatory log-in created an access barrier, excluding younger children, the elderly, and others who have less familiarity with technology.
He also took issue with the ABC’s personalisation push more broadly.
“The role of a public broadcaster is to support a shared conversation among all Australians, encompassing people from a wide variety of backgrounds and views. ‘Personalised experiences’ are the opposite of this core goal.”
“By contrast, ‘personalised experiences’ are often experienced by social media users and consumers of commercial media as isolating bubbles of reflected prejudice,” Mr Crompton said.
Ms Johnston said the ABC charter required it to reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community.
“There’s something unique about the ABC and, and moving towards personalisation, in my view, runs counter to that particular charter of the ABC,” Ms Johnston said.
The ABC’s privacy terms allow it to share user data with Facebook and Google unless a user opts out.
But this was challenged by Ms Johnston.
“They have said that people will be able to opt out if they don’t want their data shared with third parties. But opt out, is not consent. Consent must be proactive opt in,” Ms Johnston said.