10 August 2023

OAIC Community Attitudes to Privacy survey: Let’s talk about trust

Tessa Loftus

This week saw the release of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s 2023 Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy survey report. Over the years, this report has shown some interesting trends in privacy awareness and priorities across the Australian population, including a general rise in concern around privacy.

The 2017 report showed that 28% of Australians had had a problem with personal information handling in the previous 12 months, jumping substantially to 59% in 2020 and then again to 64% in this report. This report also shows that 77% of people believe they’ve experienced problems from mishandling of personal information.

Given that we know data breaches (and other privacy and cyber issues) are increasing in frequency (in fact, the OAIC’s most recent notifiable data breaches report shows a 26% increase in breaches), it’s fair to say that this is a reflection of the increased volume of genuine privacy issues, rather than merely an increase in awareness artificially inflating the self-reporting.  

Taken together with the fact that 90% of people say they know why they should protect their personal information, but only 51% know how, there is a clear opportunity here for organisations to build trust with the Australian population by taking, and implementing, privacy-enhancing actions. As the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Angelene Falk, noted “The findings point to several areas where organisations can do more to build trust in the community.”

If only four sectors (health, Federal Government, finance and education) are considered trustworthy by more than 50% of the population, but 90% of Australians would like both business and government to do more to protect their personal information, there is a large gap between community expectations and what they think organisations are actually doing.

There is an opportunity for organisations that are taking a ‘she’ll be right, mate’ approach to privacy to step up. And with strong support for privacy law reform also coming up as a key takeaway from this report, I would say ‘now is the time’.

The privacy community is unanimous in our messaging that privacy is an opportunity to build trust, and it seems that the general population agrees.

Tune in to the elevenM’s podcast ‘This week in digital trust’ on August 15 for more on the Community Attitudes to Privacy survey. Find it on Apple podcasts or Spotify.