New research from Intel Security has shown that only two in five Australians believe that current privacy laws are adequate in the face of the changed security landscape.
The survey, released in conjunction with Australian Privacy week, was conducted online by Kreab Research with a representative national sample of 1,238 Australians aged 18 years and older between 13 and 18 April 2015.
The results showed that 75 per cent of those surveyed failed to name any government policies relating to privacy, showing a disconnect between privacy concerns and awareness of legislation.
Only eight per cent of respondents could recall “The Privacy Act” and just one per cent mentioned the recent metadata legislation despite recent exposure.
Intel Security vice president and chief technical officer, Mike Sentonas, said one of the major reasons for this lack of public awareness was difficulties the government had in explaining the concept.
“I think people have actually switched off, It just got too confusing. To me, it shows that this issue is so complex that, unless we are able to explain accurately what the ramifications are, we will lose the attention of the wider public and they will not be able to make an informed decision.”
Seventy-two per cent of those surveyed said they consider their own privacy when sharing personal information online but most were untrusting of business. Only 24 per cent said they felt businesses acted quickly to fix situations where there has been a misuse of personal information.
Health care providers were the most trusted institutions with 50 per cent of respondents saying they felt their data was safe in the hands of these companies, followed by the federal government at 43 per cent and financial institutions at 33 per cent.
Sentonas argued that, due to the lack of data breach disclosure laws, and absence of a large-scale breach in Australia, most believed that institutions like this, that are often big targets overseas, are still by enlarge trusted locally.
“These organisations should be commended for their security efforts. Breach notification laws would probably bring a few things out, but I’m not sure that this would change the respondent’s minds.
“In absence of having something that has affected a lot of people and made the six o’clock news, people will probably continue to respond in the same way.”
He continued that Australia had perhaps been a little slow in enacting data breach legislation, but that it was vitally important to get the balance right when passing such laws.
“I do feel confident that the debate will get us to a good result. It may just be a little too late.”
Social media and app developers were the least trusted when it comes to protecting information. A third of those surveyed said they do not trust these companies with their personal information.
The next in line of least trusted was public Wi-Fi, with 30 per cent saying they did not trust providers with their data. Respondents were also dubious of mobile apps, 28 per cent said these were untrustworthy.
The survey revealed that travel smart cards such as Opal; location tracking services; TV subscription and streaming services; as well as personal health and fitness devices are the most trusted to collect and manage personal information.
Sentonas said that the most interesting thing that came out of the study was that while people valued their privacy, they were willing to trade that privacy in a heartbeat if it meant they get more service or more access.
“You see it all the time. When people go to an airport for example, rather than paying ten dollars for an hour of Wi-Fi, they will happily provide all their personal information, and then go and surf the web at no cost.”