Australians have lost trust in companies’ handling of personal data, according to a recent Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) survey.
The results from OAIC’s Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey 2020 are a stern warning to businesses that consumers increasingly refuse to tolerate poor data practices.
The survey revealed that Australians are particularly worried about how companies use personal information. For instance, the results show that individuals are generally less comfortable with commercial profiling activities compared with government data practices.
How is consumer behaviour changing online?
In the digital space, the survey found that when individuals download an app or program, privacy is the number one consideration, even beating price, quality and convenience. OAIC considers that privacy concerns are likely driven by negative experiences – over half of the survey participants had a problem with how their data was used in the past year, such as receiving marketing messages without consent. Unsurprisingly, almost two-thirds of individuals are uncomfortable with businesses tracking locations on mobile and web browsers.
How are consumers responding to privacy concerns?
Many individuals will take steps to protect their privacy, and most have deleted an app or denied access permissions due to such concerns. Although 85 per cent of individuals agreed they had a very strong understanding as to why they should protect personal information, many are less sure how to protect it. The main reasons for not taking further steps to protect privacy included difficulty and a lack of knowledge and time. Concerns were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic where half of the individuals believed that privacy was at greater risk at the moment due to the pandemic.
What should businesses do?
OAIC’s report suggests that businesses can help address consumer concerns and build trust and confidence. This can also benefit the industry as companies that give users greater control when collecting and using personal information can differentiate themselves from competitors. Almost nine out of ten Australians want more choice and control over the collection and use of their personal information. OAIC also concluded that individuals seemed more comfortable sharing data when the purpose for collection was clear.
OAIC will use the survey findings to inform its input into the upcoming review of the Privacy Act 1988. In the meantime, where commercially viable, businesses should consider carefully the transparency of their data practices and their compliance with not only the law but the increasingly high expectations of individuals whose information they use.
Authors: Dan Pearce & Louise Almeida
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