Australians ‘increasingly worried about data security’

October 12, 2013

Australians increasingly expect organisations handling their personal information to be safe and secure, new research has revealed.

Latest statistics from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner's (OAIC) 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey showed the public are becoming more concerned with online services such as social media.

The OAIC found 48 per cent of Australians believe web threats pose the greatest privacy risks, which may encourage more businesses to pursue a security audit to highlight any weaknesses in their current operations.

Australian information commissioner Professor John McMillan said the explosion in sites such as Twitter and Facebook have significantly changed consumer outlook towards online privacy since the last survey in 2007.

Timothy Pilgrim, privacy commissioner, said high standards must be followed to put Australians' minds at rest.

"There is a business imperative for organisations to be transparent about their personal information-handling practices and to ensure that privacy is built into systems and processes right from the beginning," he stated.

"Over 60 per cent of Australians have decided to not deal with an organisation because of privacy concerns, which is an increase from just over 40 per cent in 2007."

The most trusted industries are health providers, financial institutions and the government, with 90, 74 and 69 per cent of people respectively feeling their data is safe in these hands.

Survey respondents said they expect data security protection to be equally strong in both the private and public sectors, while 96 per cent of participants expect to be contacted if their information is lost.

People are also keen to have a greater understanding of how their data is handled on a day-to-day basis, with 95 per cent asking for more communication in this area.

"With a significant number of people saying that they have decided not to deal with an organisation due to privacy concerns, I suggest that business needs to listen to this and consider improving their practices," Mr Pilgrim stated.

Other areas of concern included the international sharing of personal information.

Not only did 90 per cent of people express concerns about this practice, 79 per cent believe it is actually a misuse of their data.

Mr Pilgrim described this as an interesting trend, particularly with the increasing frequency with which information is crossing the border between countries.

However, he said new privacy laws being introduced in March should provide more protection in this area.

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