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Data hacks set off alarm bells about privacy, survey finds


Nine out of 10 want stronger controls over what information can be collected and how it is held.

By Philip King 13 minute read

Data breaches affected almost one in two Australians last year and nine out of 10 now want more rights under privacy laws to delete what is being held or to pursue compensation, according to the latest survey by the Office of Australian Information Commissioner.

It showed high-profile hacks into Optus, Medibank and others “have drawn attention to the collection, retention and protection of personal information” and there had been a sharp increase in concern about data breaches since the previous survey three years ago.

Three-quarters of Australians now believed data breaches were one of the biggest privacy risks they faced, up 13 percentage points, but fewer than one-third felt in control of their personal information.


Australian information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said privacy has become a significant concern, especially in fast-moving fields such as artificial intelligence and biometrics.

“Australians see data breaches as the biggest privacy risk today, which is not surprising with almost half of those surveyed saying they were affected by a data breach in the prior year,” she said.

“There is a strong desire for organisations to do more to advance privacy rights, including minimising the amount of information they collect, taking extra steps to protect it and deleting it when no longer required.”

The survey found data privacy had become the third most important factor when choosing a product or service, behind quality and price but ahead of reputation and reliability.

However, there was a trust gap with just 42 per cent believing most organisations were transparent about the way they used personal information and social media companies the most suspect.

Fewer than half Australians trusted organisations to collect only the information they needed, use it as specified, store it securely and delete it when no longer needed.

The survey found 47 per cent were told by an organisation that their personal information had been involved in a data breach in the year prior, and three-quarters had experienced harm because of a breach.

“The findings point to several areas where organisations can do more to build trust in the community,” Ms Falk said. “Not only is good privacy practice the right thing to do and what the community expects, it’s a precondition for the success of innovations that rely on personal information.”

More than eight of 10 wanted more control and choice over the collection and use of their information while nine out of 10 thought business and government should do more to protect personal information.

Almost nine out of 10 wanted the right to force a business to delete personal information, to know when artificial intelligence was being used about them and to pursue compensation through the courts in the case of a breach.

Of the individuals surveyed, 85 per cent of parents believed children should be empowered to use the internet but with their data privacy protected.

Ms Falk said there is strong support for privacy law reform.

“We are at a pivotal moment for privacy in Australia, where we can seize the opportunity to ensure laws and practices uphold our fundamental human right to privacy,” she said.

“This is an opportunity to ensure the protections the community expects are reflected in the law.

“The OAIC will use the findings to inform our ongoing input into the review of the Privacy Act and to target our activities at areas of high concern among the community.”

The Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey quizzed a nationally representative sample of 1,916 adults in March. The survey, which dates back to 1990, has been conducted in its current form since 2001.




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Philip King

Philip King


Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

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