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Federal Government calls on businesses to improve privacy policies

Federal Government calls on businesses to improve privacy policies

Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, has said businesses need to make privacy easy for customers to manage

Timothy Pilgrim - Australian Privacy Commissioner

Timothy Pilgrim - Australian Privacy Commissioner

The Federal Government is urging businesses to review and do better on their privacy policies, for Australians to get the best privacy protection.

Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, said businesses have a major role to play in ensuring Australians get the “best privacy protection”, and the first step to that is for companies to streamline their privacy policies.

“It’s encouraging to see that Australians are alert to privacy risks. But we need to convert awareness into action, and use the options already available to us to protect our personal information,” he said.

“For businesses, there is still work to do to make privacy easy for customers to manage. Those long-winded privacy notices and complex settings need to be replaced by clear language and point-in-time notifications. Some are doing this well, but others need to lift their game.”

The Federal Government claim is a result of a recent survey it undertook. In its 2017 Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey, released to coincide with Privacy Awareness Week (15-19 May), the Government found that 69 per cent of Australians feel more concerned about their online privacy than five years ago, and 83 per cent believe privacy risks are greater online than offline.

However, the survey also showed that Australians do not use existing privacy tools to protect themselves online as well as they could.

The survey was conducted by Wallis Consulting Group on behalf of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, and involved 1,800 people participating via landline and mobile numbers or online panel interviews.

“While 61 per cent of us check website security, our results found that over 65 per cent of Australians do not read privacy policies, and half do not regularly adjust privacy settings on social media, or clear their browsing history.

“Our survey [also] shows the majority of Australians have decided not to deal with a business due to privacy concerns,” Pilgrim added.

According to the survey, more than half the Australians surveyed said they previously decided not to deal with a business because of privacy concerns and nearly half did not download an app because of the information it might capture.

In addition, more than three quarters of Australians identified that they aren’t comfortable with businesses sharing out personal information with other organisations, and nearly all of them said they were concerned about personal information being sent overseas.

As such, he advised that businesses handle personal information with care, and that all Australians take the basic steps already available to protect their privacy.

This isn’t the first time businesses have been alerted of the need for updated privacy policies.

Late last year, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) called for business to simplify privacy policy agreements following research by the advocacy group.

Its findings revealed that Australians hold significant concerns around privacy, with 60 per cent ceasing deals with a company over such issues, 79 per cent against seeing personal information sent offshore, and 70 per cent opposed to having their data stored in order to receive targeted offers.

According to ACCAN, the findings suggested that the issue is not derived from a lack of concern across the country but a failure of the privacy policies to be adequately communicated to Australian consumers

On the flipside, the advocacy group said it results in opportunity for service providers to innovate and “compete to offer” consumers better information about privacy.

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Tags Timothy Pilgrimfederal governmentpoliciesprivacy

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