There is no way to opt-out of data sharing when using ABC platforms the broadcaster has conceded, after experts publicly demonstrated user information being sent to third-party companies this week.
But the ABC has pushed back on the latest controversy around users’ viewing habits being shared with data companies, insisting it is only for analytics and its own audience understanding rather than advertising or revenue.
It comes as the ABC faces mounting criticism over its decision to force users to sign up for accounts to continue to access the popular iview video-on-demand service.
On Tuesday the ABC began rolling out mandatory user accounts for its iview service. The registration process requires personal details like name, date of birth, location and gender.
By default, the accounts track users’ viewing habits, and share this data with third parties companies to serve targeted ads on Facebook and Google platforms.
There is a manual option to opt-out of the third-party data sharing for advertising, but the ABC offers no way to opt-out of data sharing altogether, meaning information on every user is being shared with Google for analytics and with Tealium – a US data firm – whether or not the user has utilised the opt-out mechanism on the site.
“The ABC does not offer a general opt-out of data sharing with service providers,” an ABC spokesperson told InnovationAus.com.
“The option to opt-out from Promotions on Digital Platforms on ABC iview means hashed email addresses are not shared with Facebook and Google – this is clearly disclosed at the point of opt-out. The ABC also offers an opt-in to marketing cookies on web so that they are not used unless the user opts-in.”
A video demonstration by data expert Vanessa Teague on Tuesday showing data being sent to Google and Tealium despite the account used having opted out of third-party sharing sparked fears of an error or that users are being misled with disingenuous opt-out options.
But the broadcaster insists Google is only receiving the information for analytics purposes, while Tealium uses the data in a segmentation service which is returned to the broadcaster and used in its own platforms for things like content recommendations but not advertising.
“Data sent to Google Analytics and Tealium is not the same as data that may be sent to Google Ads and Facebook, by way of a hashed email address, if the user has not opted-out,” the spokesperson said.
“Sharing data with Google Analytics is common practice, including among government agencies.
“Google Analytics is a web analytics service that allows organisations to discover patterns and trends in user engagement. The ABC uses this information to improve the digital media services it provides to Australians, in accordance with its charter obligations.”
The ABC declined to answer specific questions about its data sharing arrangement with Tealium, but said it “does not sell or receive payment for licensing or disclosing personal information” and the service Tealium provides is used only to serve content on the ABC’s own platforms.
A Freedom of Information request by Professor Teague to have the data sharing agreements the ABC holds with Facebook, Google and Tealium was rejected on grounds it would breach confidence.
Viewers are still able to watch all the ABC’s live broadcast streams on ABC iview web including ABC TV, ABC News, ABC Kids and ABC ME without needing to log in.
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