The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) released the results of the 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey on 9 October 2013 which show that Australians are becoming more concerned about privacy risks and that they expect the organisations they deal with to take effective steps to safeguard their personal information.
48% of Australians believe that online services, including social media, now pose the greatest privacy risk. Only 9% of those surveyed considered social media websites to be trustworthy in protecting privacy.
Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan, said the survey results confirm the growing community concern about privacy risks arising from the explosion in use of social media since this survey was last run in 2007.
‘In the last 5 years we have seen a significant change in how people communicate and interact online. People’s attitude to the importance of personal privacy protection is changing at the same time,’ said Professor McMillan.
The three most trustworthy industries, in relation to privacy, were health service providers, trusted by 90% of participants; financial institutions, trusted by 74% (up from 58% in 2007); and Government, trusted by 69%.
Of great importance in the results, is that the public expects data security protection to be similar in both the public and private sectors. 96% surveyed expect to be informed if their information is lost (for both government and the private sector) and around 95% surveyed also feel they should be made aware of how their information is handled on a day-to-day basis.
Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim said it was clear that the Australian public continues to insist that their personal information is handled with the highest possible standards.
”Here is a business imperative for organisations to be transparent about their personal information handling practices and to ensure that privacy is built in to systems and processes right from the beginning,” Mr Pilgrim said.
Mr Pilgrim went on to say that “Just over 60% of Australians have decided to not deal with an organisation because of privacy concerns, which is an increase from just over 40% in 2007.”
“These results send a very clear message that people remain concerned about how their information will be handled. With a significant number of people saying that they have decided not to deal with an organisation due to privacy concerns, I suggest that business needs to listen to this and consider improving their practices,” Mr Pilgrim said.
The survey showed that Australians are increasingly concerned about the international sharing of personal information; 79% of people feel that cross-border disclosure is a misuse of personal information, and 90% have concerns about the practice.
‘This is an interesting finding given the increasing frequency with which data is being sent off-shore. New privacy laws commencing next March will increase protection around the handling of Australian information that is transferred off-shore, and it will be interesting to see how attitudes change as a result of this,’ Mr Pilgrim said.