Privacy Impact Assessment

Australians’ growing online privacy concern is a wakeup call for businesses

McAfee co-sponsored research explores Australian attitudes about the use of their personal information.

New research released today reveals that an overwhelming 97 per cent of Australians believe that it is a misuse of their personal information when it is collected for one reason and used for another. In addition, one in three Australians have had an issue with the way their personal information was handled in the last year.

The research also found that a significant portion of Australians (29 per cent) went straight to the business responsible for a suspected data breach – an increase from 13 per cent in 2007. The survey, from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) titled 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy was sponsored by Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Henry Davis York and McAfee – and is a longitudinal study which was last conducted in 2007 – and explores the changing attitudes of Australians about the use of their personal information. Commenting on the research, Joel Camissar, Data Loss Prevention and Privacy Lead at McAfee Asia Pacific, says, “This research indicates that Australian consumers are becoming more privacy savvy and aware so are therefore placing an increased value on their digital footprint.

“So what this tells us is these changing attitudes are a timely wakeup call for businesses as Australia leads up to the enforcement of changes to the Australian Privacy Act in March next year.

“These findings have significant ramifications for Australian businesses keen to secure customer loyalty, and suggests the need for organisations to effectively communicate the measures they take to protect their customers valuable personal information,” says Camissar.

Released at a launch event hosted by Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim discussed in Sydney today, the OAIC Community Attitudes to Privacy survey also revealed:

  • 90 per cent of Australians are concerned about organisations sending their personal data overseas - Over three quarters (78 per cent) of Australians are unhappy or uncomfortable with organisations monitoring and storing their online activity for later use
  • Half of Australians do not read privacy policies because they are either too long, too complicated or too boring
  • 25 per cent of Australians also indicated they were reluctant to share their personal information in order to protect their privacy

“With trust such a key element in the customer service relationship, there is a competitive advantage for businesses who take the lead in being transparent in how they handle and protect their customers' personal information.

“It is clear that businesses who take consumer privacy seriously moving forward will benefit by aligning their business processes to their consumer expectations,” continued Camissar. Camissar recommends Australian businesses follow five key recommendations to improve their approach to managing customers’ privacy:  

  1. Develop and implement a comprehensive and easy to understand privacy policy and ensure strong policies for managing data.
  2. Perform a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) on how customer information is handled.
  3. Review technology controls to prevent data breaches.
  4. Thoroughly educate employees and create a culture of privacy protection.
  5. Create a dedicated privacy role within the company and review the amendments to the Privacy Act (found at oaic.gov.au) and determine the impact to the organisation. 

Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim says, “Data breaches most often occur due to poor or inadequate security measures. With only five months to go until the changes to the Privacy Act take effect, businesses need to reinforce to their employees the company’s responsibility for protecting customer details and also ensure that their security technology is robust.”

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