Information commissioner calls for action as privacy concerns grow

Australians are concerned about online privacy, but are not using options already available to protect themselves.

That’s the key finding from a national survey released on Monday by the Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, who says both businesses and consumers “have work to do”.

The 2017 Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey, released for Privacy Awareness Week (15-19 May) reveals that 69 per cent of Australians say they feel more concerned about their online privacy than they did five years ago, and 83 per cent believe privacy risks are greater online than offline.

However, the survey also shows that Australians do not use existing privacy tools to protect themselves online as well as they could.

Commissioner Pilgrim says both individual responsibility and better business practice have a role to play to ensure Australians get the best privacy protection.

“It’s encouraging to see that Australians are alert to privacy risks.

“But we need to convert awareness into action, and use the options already available to us to protect our personal information.

Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim [Photo: OAIC]
Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim [Photo: OAIC]

“While 61 per cent of us check website security, our results found that over 65 per cent of Australians do not read privacy policies, and half do 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. If you are shopping or socialising online I encourage you to take the time to protect your privacy first.

“For businesses, these results show there is 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.

“Some are doing this well, but others need to lift their game, because our survey shows the majority of Australians have decided not to deal with a business due to privacy concerns.”

The Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey also reveals that one quarter of Australians have regretted sharing a social media post and over 26 per cent know someone who has been the victim of identity theft.

The survey found that Australians believe the biggest risks to privacy are:

* Online services (including social media): 32 per cent

* ID fraud and theft: 19 per cent

* Data breaches and security: 17 per cent

* Risks to financial data: 12 per cent.

The survey also found Australians are uncomfortable with businesses sharing their personal information with other organisations (79 per cent) and are concerned about organisations sending personal information overseas (93 per cent).

The Privacy Awareness Week is an initiative of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities and is the largest campaign in the Asian Pacific that raises awareness on privacy issues and how personal information can be better protected.

The Filipino Australian is a partner of the awareness campaign.

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