Privacy concerns on the rise, warns new report


During Privacy Awareness Week (15th-19th May), a national survey has warned that consumers and business need better mechanisms to tackle privacy and the sharing of personal data.

Australians are concerned about online privacy, but still not using options already available to protect themselves, warns a national survey released by the Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner.

The 2017 Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey, released during Privacy Awareness Week (15th – 19th May) revealed that 69 per cent of respondents felt more concerned about their online privacy than they did five years ago.

Up to 83 per cent believed that privacy risks were greater online than offline. However, consumers were not using existing privacy tools to protect themselves online as well as they could.

Timothy Pilgrim, the Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner, said that individual responsibility and better business practice played an important role to ensure everyone gained the best privacy protection.

“It’s encouraging to see that Australians are alert to privacy risks,” said Pilgrim. “But we need to convert awareness into action, and use the options already available to us to protect our personal information.”

While 61 per cent of consumers checked website security, the results found that over 65 per cent did not read privacy policies. Moreover, half did not regularly adjust privacy settings on social media, or clear their browsing history.

“These are options that we can all use to better protect our privacy,” said Pilgrim. “If you are shopping or socialising online I encourage you to take the time to protect your privacy first.”

For businesses, there was still work to do to make privacy easy for customers to manage. “Those long-winded privacy notices and complex settings need to be replaced by clear language and point-in-time notifications,” added Pilgrim.

Some businesses had managed privacy well, while others needed to lift their game, “Our survey shows the majority of Australians have decided not to deal with a business due to privacy concerns.”

The latest survey revealed that one quarter of consumers had regretted sharing a social media post, and over 26 per cent knew someone who was the victim of identity theft.

The biggest risks to privacy were online services (including social media), ID fraud and theft, data breaches and security, as well as the risks involving financial data.

Consumers remained uncomfortable with businesses sharing their personal information with other organisations. They were also concerned about organisations sending personal information overseas.