Australians become more concerned about privacy risks: survey


Results of a survey by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), which was released on Wednesday, showed that Australians are becoming more concerned about privacy risks.

The OAIC 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey showed that people expect the organizations they deal with to take effective steps to safeguard their personal information.

The survey, conducted through landlines and mobile numbers of 1, 000 Australians, reports that 48 percent of Australians believe that online services, including social media, now pose the greatest privacy risk. Only 9 percent of survey respondents 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 five 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 McMillan.

Survey participants were asked whether certain industries were trustworthy. The three most trustworthy industries were health service providers, trusted by 90 percent of participants; financial institutions, trusted by 74 percent; and government, trusted by 69 percent.

The survey indicates that the public expects data security protection to be similar in both the public and private sectors. A high majority of survey participants expect to be informed if their information is lost. The majority of people, around 95 percent, also feel they should be made aware how of their information is handled on a day-to-day basis.

The Community Attitudes to Privacy survey has been conducted periodically since 2001. A significant longitudinal finding is that an increased number of people make a choice not to deal with a public or private sector organization because of a concern over how their personal information has been or may be used.

"Just over 60 percent of Australians have decided to not deal with an organization because of privacy concerns, which is an increase from just over 40 percent in 2007," said Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.

The survey showed that Australians are increasingly concerned about the international sharing of personal information; 79 percent of people feel that cross-border disclosure is a misuse of personal information, and 90 percent 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," Pilgrim said.