Half of Australians surveyed believe that organizations have too much control over their personal information and are not transparent about how it is used, according to a recent survey. The study found that only 2 in 5 people trust organizations’ handling of information, while nearly 2 out of 3 people admit to not fully understanding how their data is being utilized.
Information and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk expressed concern about this lack of trust and understanding, emphasizing that 84 percent of individuals surveyed want more control and choice over the collection and use of their personal information. Falk pointed out that privacy is a significant factor for consumers when choosing a product or service, ranking third after quality and price.
Apple, known for its emphasis on privacy and security, emerged as a brand that has successfully promoted the built-in privacy features of its products. Falk attributed the growing privacy and data security concerns to three factors: the widespread contact tracing and check-ins during the pandemic, the increasing number of people affected by data breaches, and the rising use of personal information in technologies like generative AI.
The survey revealed that there is a strong demand from the community for businesses to do more to protect personal information, with 92 percent of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with this sentiment. It also indicated overwhelming support for improved legislative protections: 89 percent of those surveyed want the government to pass privacy legislation that safeguards their information.
Falk highlighted several privacy reforms that Australians are advocating for, including the ability to request the deletion of personal information, the right to object to certain data practices, and the option to seek compensation through the courts. Respondents also expressed a desire to be informed if artificial intelligence is used to make decisions that could significantly impact them.
Looking ahead, the Australian government is set to consider a shift in privacy rules that would grant consumers personal rights to privacy and create a statutory tort for serious breaches, along with other measures to enhance individual control over data. Similar digital reforms already exist in Europe and much of North America. However, the proposed changes are facing opposition from big businesses concerned about the costs of system rebuilding and small businesses currently exempt from privacy oversight. Search, marketing, and media firms have also expressed concerns about the impact of opt-out regulations on advertising and product personalization.
Additionally, the survey discovered that Australians are cautious about AI’s decision-making capabilities and believe that certain conditions should be in place before AI systems can affect individuals. However, the study showed an increase in trust regarding government use of data for research and policy development, with 44 percent of respondents feeling comfortable or somewhat comfortable with this practice, up from 38 percent in 2017.
When assessing trust in various industries’ handling of personal information, health providers, federal agencies, banks, and educational institutions scored well, with over 60 percent of respondents considering them trustworthy. On the other hand, credit reporters, retailers, real estate agents, and social media platforms such as Facebook and TikTok received low scores, with only 16 percent rating the social media platforms as trustworthy.
The survey results highlight Australians’ desire for greater control and transparency when it comes to their personal information. As privacy and data security concerns rise, consumers are increasingly prioritizing privacy protections and favor businesses that handle their information fairly and reasonably. The forthcoming privacy reforms present an opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves in the market by prioritizing privacy and providing individuals with more control over their data.