This blog was written by EFA board member John Pane.
The recent Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey (ACAPS), released by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), reveals Australians’ attitudes to and experiences of privacy, as well as how recent events have impacted them.
ACAPS is a longstanding study commissioned by the OAIC which gathers data every 3 years to evaluate the awareness, understanding, behaviour and concerns about privacy among Australians.
The research has evolved since the first survey in 2001, reflecting a changing cultural, legislative, and technological environment. This year, the survey tested attitudes on topics such as data practices, privacy legislation, data breaches, biometrics, artificial intelligence, and children’s privacy.
EFA hopes these insights will be used to increase community trust and confidence in the protection of their personal information.
Key takeaways are:
- Australians care about privacy. Nine in 10 Australians have a clear understanding of why they should protect their personal information, and 62% see the protection of their personal information as a major concern in their life.
- Australians don’t feel in control of their privacy, and don’t know what to do about it. Only 32% feel in control of their privacy, and half believe that if they want to use a service, they have no choice but to accept what the service does with their data. Three in five care about their data privacy, but don’t know what to do about it.
- Most Australians have had a negative privacy experience. Forty-seven per cent were told by an organisation that their personal information was involved in a data breach in the year prior, and three-quarters said they experienced harm because of a data breach.
- Australians have strong feelings about certain data practices. Nine in 10 are concerned about organisations sending their information overseas. Ninety‑six per cent want conditions in place before AI is used to make decisions that might affect them.
- There are high levels of distrust. Only four sectors (health, federal government, finance, and education) are more trusted than distrusted to manage personal data. Less than half of people trust organisations to only collect the data they need, share information as they say they will, and delete it when no longer needed.
- Australians want more to be done to protect privacy. Eighty‑four per cent want more control and choice over the collection and use of their information. Around nine in 10 Australians would like businesses and government agencies to do more to protect their personal information.
What’s next? The OAIC will use the findings to inform its ongoing input into the review of the Privacy Act 1988 and to target its activities at areas of high concern among the community.
Australians are particularly uncomfortable with personal data aggregators or platforms that track their location and surreptitiously syphon off their personal data for either internal exploitation or external monetization through their mobile or web browser.
Many of us are extremely uncomfortable with the knowledge that numerous organizations either routinely collect more personal information than is needed to provide a product or service, are using that data in unexpected ways, or are selling off personal data for profit. This is creating a significant trust deficit.
Community concerns about data privacy are significant. Survey data clearly shows that many organizations either collect excessive personal information, misuse it, or profit from selling it. This creates discomfort among Australians and a substantial trust gap.
Many of us are extremely uncomfortable knowing organizations collect excessive personal data, can use it unexpectedly, and profit from its sale, leading to a significant trust deficit. The survey data confirms a serious concern of EFA’s: Australians are feeling a deep unease as their personal data is misused and exploited for profit.
Given the heightened number of data breaches reported — especially the large, significant data breaches attracting intense government and public scrutiny such as Optus, Medibank, and Latitude Finance — it is clear that our personal data is no longer the new oil forming the basis of the digital economy; it is quickly becoming the new asbestos.
EFA is for all members of the Australian community. Join us today as a member or volunteer. Your involvement matters. Together, we’ll work to expose and confront the surveillance economy, creating a brighter digital future.
(Photo credit: Unsplash)