OAIC Community Attitudes to Privacy survey Research Report 2013

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   TABLE OF CONTENTS

  

THE OFFICE OF THE AUSTRALIAN INFORMATION COMMISSIONER WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING SPONSORS FOR THEIR SUPPORT OF THE COMMUNITY ATTITUDES TO PRIVACY SURVEY

Primary Sponsor

Commonwealth Bank logo

Key Sponsor

Henry Davis York logo

Sponsor

McAfee logo

PREPARED FOR THE OFFICE OF THE AUSTRALIAN INFORMATION COMMISSIONER BY

Wallis logo - strategic market and social research

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) was established on 1 November 2010 by the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010. All OAIC publications can be made available in a range of accessible formats for people with disabilities. If you require assistance, please contact the OAIC.

ISBN 978-1-877079-76-4

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Creative Commons

With the exception of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, this report Community attitudes to privacy survey, Research report 2013 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au/deed.en).

This publication should be attributed as: Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Community attitudes to privacy survey, Research report 2013.

Enquiries regarding the licence and any use of this report are welcome at:

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner GPO Box 2999 CANBERRA ACT 2601 Tel: 02 9284 9800 TTY: 1800 620 241 (no voice calls) Email: enquiries@oaic.gov.au

1.0 Summary of key findings

 The survey

The 2013 Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) Community Attitudes to Privacy study aims to measure Australians' changing awareness and opinions about privacy, as well as their expectations in relation to the handling of their personal information. The study also seeks views on a range of privacy issues, such as online privacy, credit reporting and privacy in the workplace.

The study has been conducted since 1990 and was last undertaken in 2007. All previous studies were conducted by telephone, and respondents were selected at random from an electronic listing of telephone numbers.

The number of Australians with a listed fixed line phone is declining and the proportion of younger Australians with a fixed line phone is even lower. Therefore, it was decided to conduct the 2013 study by telephone, but this time using lists of fixed line and mobile phones as well as numbers generated at random and checked against known live numbers. During July 2013, 1,000 Australians from a range of age groups, locations and backgrounds were contacted and agreed to participate.

Some questions asked in this study have been asked before and trend data are available. However, a number of questions were modified to reflect advances in technology as well as changes in privacy laws. In particular, questions relating to health information, online privacy, privacy in the workplace and ID theft and fraud were heavily modified. The survey includes a number of new questions, including questions about online tracking, smart phones, social networking, credit reporting and what actions people take to protect their own privacy.

The OAIC was keen to conduct the survey this year as the Australian public, businesses and government agencies prepare for significant changes to the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) that are due to take effect from March 2014.

 The findings

In the context of talking about personal information, Australians believe the biggest privacy risks facing people are online services - including social media sites. Almost a half of the population (48%) mentioned these risks spontaneously. A quarter (23%) felt that the risk of ID fraud and theft was the biggest, followed by data security (16%) and the risks to financial data in general (11%). Young Australians were most concerned about personal information and online services, with six in ten (60%) mentioning this as a privacy risk. There were other concerns, but none of the others were mentioned as a major risk by more than one in ten Australians.

This new, opening survey question gave context to the rest of the interview. The one in six (17%) Australians who regret something they have posted on a social networking site together with the increasing proportion of the population that has been affected by ID fraud and theft, or knows someone who has, have clearly been affected by their experiences. Two thirds (69%) are concerned that they may become a victim in the next year - a significant increase on the situation six years ago (60%). One third (33%) of Australians say that they have had problems with the way that their personal information was handled in the previous year.

Another trend that has no doubt served to underpin increasing caution amongst Australians is the increasing proportion of the population that is aware of Federal privacy laws (82% versus 69% in 2007). Presumably the public is also aware of other consumer protection laws, given the increased proportion of the community that has made a complaint about misuse of their personal information to a number of different ombudsmen, including the OAIC. A worrying finding is that while people now seem to have a better understanding of how ombudsmen schemes operate, a quarter (27%) does not know who to report their problems to - a significant increase on the situation six years ago (20%).

The use of personal information such as revealing one customer's data to another customer (97%), information being used for a purpose other than the reason for which it was given (97%), and being contacted by an unfamiliar organisation (96%) is considered almost universally to be inappropriate. Related to this, the backlash against unsolicited marketing activity is gaining pace, with the majority feeling annoyed (56%) with the contact or concerned about how their details were obtained by the organisation contacting them (39%). In 2013, just under half (45%) were annoyed by this activity versus just over a quarter (27%) in 2007. Australians were less likely to feel it was "a bit annoying, but mostly harmless" (11% in 2013 versus 23% in 2007).

The majority of Australians do not like their personal information being sent offshore. Eight in ten (79%) believe this to be a misuse of their personal information and nine in ten (90%) have concerns about the practice.

Australians are not keen on having their activities monitored covertly on the internet (78% are uncomfortable with this practice) and having sales and marketing approaches made to them based on their actions (69% are uncomfortable). However, they prefer this activity to the idea of having information on their behaviour stored in databases to be used to target offers at them (77% are uncomfortable).

The majority believes that most or all websites (59%) and smartphone apps (48%) collect information about the user and are uncomfortable with this practice. The result is that a growing number of people are taking pre-emptive measures to protect their information, from nine in ten (90%) refusing to provide personal information in some circumstances, to eight in ten (78%) checking the security of websites before entering personal data, to seven in ten (72%) clearing their internet browsing history, to six in ten (62%) opting not to use smartphone apps because of concerns about the way personal information would be used. Still only three in ten falsify their name (30%) or details (32%) in order to protect themselves.

The majority (60%) believes that social networking is mainly a public activity where information can be seen by many people. One in six (17%) has posted something onto a social networking site that they regret, rising to a third (33%) amongst young people.

In the face of these results it might seem strange that a slight majority (51%) continues not to read online privacy policies. The reasons that these policies are not read are concerning - it is because they are considered to be too long (52%), complex (20%) or boring (9%). The large minority (37%) reading privacy policies are rewarded by gaining the information they need to decide whether or not to use the site.

Over time this study has sought to understand the level of trust that Australians have in the way that organisations handle their personal information. It is still the case that Australians have more trust in government entities (69%) than most private enterprises, with the exception of health organisations (90%) and financial institutions (74%). Notable shifts in levels of trust since 2007 are an increase in trust in financial institutions (58% to 74%); insurance companies (46% to 54%); real estate agents (25% to 33%) and eCommerce companies (18% to 26%). The only type of company to be considered less trustworthy was market and social research organisations (35% to 30%).

The majority (60%) of Australians have decided not to deal with a private company due to concerns as to how their personal information will be used, and nearly a quarter (23%) has decided not to deal with a public organisation.

The public expects similarly high standards of transparency in data handling from all types of organisations with almost universal agreement that organisations should inform them if their personal information is lost and how they protect and handle personal information in the first place. For government agencies, nearly all Australians (96%) believe that they should tell them how their personal information is stored and protected, and that they should be informed if their personal information is lost (96%). The results for private businesses are similar (95% and 96% respectively).

Half (49%) of Australians continue to be most reluctant to provide financial details to organisations, but a small but growing proportion is reluctant to provide address (7%), date of birth (6%) or home phone number (4%) details. Nonetheless, over a quarter of the population is prepared to provide personal information in exchange for improved service (34%) or reduced prices (28%).

Reluctance to provide medical information has fallen (from 25% in 2001 to 7% in 2013). Related to this, the proportion that is prepared to have information shared is rising, with two thirds (66%) prepared to accept their doctor discussing their health information with other health professionals versus six in ten (59%) in 2007.

Australians do see circumstances in which personal liberties can be outweighed by the public good as well. In the workplace, over nine in ten Australians believe it is acceptable for employers of people: operating heavy machinery (96%); handling dangerous substances (95%); operating vehicles on company business (94%); or dealing with children and young people (91%), to undergo random drug and alcohol tests. Having said this, they expect employers engaged in these or surveillance activities to have policies in place that govern their use (85%).

Biometric data are widely available and its use concerns Australians. The majority is concerned with the need for the use of such information to access licensed premises (71%), the workplace or place of study (55%) and to do day-to-day banking (54%), but the minority (40%) is concerned with using it to get on a flight. Related to this, scanning identification documents is considered to be acceptable in order to obtain a credit card (69%), but not for more everyday activities such as purchasing general goods - even those which require the purchaser to be an adult (31%), entry to licensed premises (28%), or to purchase cigarettes (24%). Scanning identification was strongly opposed for other general goods (95% believed it is unacceptable).

Finally the survey asked Australians about their understanding of credit reporting. Half (48%) believe that they can access their information but that they may have to pay to do so, a quarter (26%) believe that their information is freely available and one in six (17%) believe that it cannot access the data at all. The balance, one in ten (9%), professes to have no knowledge on how the provisions work. One in six (17%) Australians claimed to have accessed their credit report and four in ten (43%) of these people were charged for access. Happily, in most cases (70%) the information contained in the report was correct. Almost six in ten (57%) of those people who reported incorrect information in their reports were able to have the information corrected. Nonetheless, four in ten (39%) of those with incorrect information chose not to complain. The people who did complain largely chose to do so to the organisation involved.

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 2.0 Background and objectives

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is an independent Australian Government agency established under the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010.

The OAIC has three primary functions:

The OAIC Community Attitudes to Privacy study aims to understand Australians' changing awareness and opinions about privacy, as well as their expectations in relation to the handling of their personal information. The study also seeks views on a range of particular issues, including online privacy, credit reporting and privacy in the workplace.

The objectives of the 2013 study include:

  • to assist in the OAIC's dispute resolution, regulation and strategy work, and communications work
  • to provide information on privacy trends and developments for the OAIC's stakeholders
  • to map changes in community attitudes since the last research and to use this information as a benchmark for future studies.

It is also worth noting that the FOI Act states that information held by the Australian Government is a national resource, and is to be managed for public purposes. In practice, this means that the OAIC is committed to making public sector information more readily and freely available to the public to maximise its reuse and value. In this regard, the OAIC will make the de-identified data available on data.gov.au, an Australian Government initiative that provides an easy way to find, access and reuse public datasets from the Australian Government.

 Previous surveys

In 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994, the Privacy Commissioner (as part of the then Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) conducted surveys to measure changes in public attitudes towards and awareness of privacy-related concerns to which their activities may have contributed. Major research studies were subsequently undertaken by the former Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) in 2001, 2004 and 2007, to assist the OPC to prioritise its activities based on public concerns.

The 2007 research consisted of a quantitative survey of community attitudes. A national phone survey of 1,503 adults was undertaken using Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI). The average time taken for the survey was 26 minutes, although it ranged up to 45 minutes.

There have been a number of significant developments in the privacy environment since the 2007 survey that shaped the current study.

The last study provided information for the then OPC to use in its submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry into Australian privacy law and practices.

The ALRC released its report For Your Information: Australian privacy law and practice (ALRC Report 108) in 2008, and the Australian Government released a response to a number of the recommendations of the report.

In November 2012, the Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Amendment Act 2012 (Cth) was passed. This Act amends the Privacy Act to implement the major legislative elements of the Government's first stage response to the ALRC report. Key changes include a set of new harmonised privacy principles (known as the Australian Privacy Principles) that will regulate the handling of personal information by both Australian government agencies and businesses, changes to credit reporting laws, and enhanced enforcement powers for the OAIC.

Further, major changes to Federal FOI law made in 2010 established the OAIC as the body responsible for all three of these functions. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner, which was the national privacy regulator, was integrated into the OAIC at this time.

In the six years since 2007 technology, in particular, has changed. For example, in 2007 social networking site Facebook had 21 million registered members[1]. By the middle of 2013 it had over 980 million. In 2007, Twitter reported 400,000 tweets per quarter[2], by 2011 users were tweeting 140 million tweets per day[3].

The gigantic uptake of online activity has led to an age of 'big data'. Online activity, such as online shopping, has seen a sharp rise in the provision of personal information online in exchange for goods, services and other benefits.

Coupled with this is a dramatic increase in smart phone and tablet ownership and the way in which these devices are used has also changed. For example, Apple launched the first iPhone in June 2007. These devices have combined a phone with other functionality that will often rely on the provision of additional information about the user, including location information.

There have also been a number of changes in the market research industry that have shaped the approach taken to this survey. These changes include the review of the industry's privacy code, changes in telephone number sampling products and random digit dialling, changed views about the benefits of online surveys and new software and hardware enabling true multi-mode deployment of complex samples.

Clearly, these changes in technology and the public's behaviour in relation to the provision of personal information, along with business and government's ability to collect and use this information are all worthy of investigation. These themes are now woven into the study to ensure these trends can be mapped into the future.

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 3.0 Methodology

Following the 2007 study, Wallis prepared a detailed methodology report that raised a number of issues with the methodology that had been used up to that point. While it has always been difficult to interview young adults, especially those aged 18-24, because they are highly mobile, the increasing trend for this age group to use only mobile communications posed a problem for fixed line telephone surveying, if the views of this group were to be included at reasonable cost. In addition, the proportion of households relying solely on a fixed line phone is declining, although still around eight in ten households (80%) have a fixed line phone.

In 2007, online research was becoming increasingly popular. Online research respondents are pre-recruited and some of their characteristics are known. This made the technique particularly useful for ensuring a fast turnaround of respondents to pre-arranged specifications. Wallis suggested boosting telephone interviews with interviews conducted online, particularly for the younger age groups.

Since 2007, the approach to online research has matured. Many surveys have been conducted and providers of online surveys are now wary of over-researching younger people in their pre-recruited respondent panels. In addition, we now know that mobile young Australians are no more interested in completing surveys online than they are in talking on the telephone. In the interim, new listings of connected mobile telephone numbers have become available and it was decided to continue to interview Australians by telephone but using a mixed starting sample of fixed and mobile phone numbers.

 Data collection

Data for this study was collected through Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) between 13 June and 10 July 2013. All calls were made from Wallis Consulting Group's CATI facility in Melbourne. In total 1,000 interviews were completed with Australians aged over 18 years of age. Quotas were set for age and location to ensure that the sample was broadly representative of the Australian population and that there were enough responses in each group of interest for robust analysis. The actual number of interviews completed by location is shown in Table 1. Table 2 shows the number of interviews conducted by age groups and Table 3 shows the number broken down by gender.

For the purpose of this report due to rounding, percentages may not add to 100 per cent.

Table 1. Achieved responses versus population by location

Location

Base n

Base %

Pop. %

NSW/ACT (sub-total)

328

32.8

33.9

Sydney

193

19.3

20.5

Rest of NSW/ACT

135

13.5

13.3

VICTORIA (sub-total)

263

26.3

25.1

Melbourne

191

19.1

18.9

Rest of VIC

72

7.2

6.3

QUEENSLAND (sub-total)

195

19.5

19.8

Brisbane

104

10.4

9.5

Rest of QLD

91

9.1

10.3

SOUTH AUSTRALIA (sub-total)

85

8.5

8.5

Adelaide

56

5.6

5.8

Rest of SA /NT

29

2.9

2.6

WESTERN AUSTRALIA (sub-total)

105

10.5

10.3

Perth

82

8.2

8.1

Rest of WA

23

2.3

2.3

TASMANIA (sub-total)

24

2.4

2.3

Hobart

9

0.9

1.0

Rest of TAS

15

1.5

1.3

TOTAL

1000

100.0

100.0

Table 2. Achieved responses versus population by age groups

Age

Base n

Base %

Pop. %

18 to 24

104

10.4

12.2

25 to 34

119

11.9

17.9

35 to 54

308

30.8

36.4

55 to 64

274

27.4

15.1

65 and over

195

19.5

18.3

Total

1000

100.0

100.0

Table 3. Achieved responses versus population by gender

Gender

Base n

Base %

Pop. %

Male

432

43.2

48.8

Female

568

56.8

51.2

Total

1000

100.0

100.0

The interview took 26 minutes, on average, for respondents to complete. The questionnaire used for the study is available at Appendix One.

 Sample - source and management

This study used a dual-frame sampling approach; that is, including both mobile and fixed line phone numbers in the starting sample. This sampling frame gives almost universal access to Australians.

One of the limitations of using mobile phone sampling is that it is not possible to determine the location of the telephone's owner, which is important for the study given the critical importance that respondents are not called at inappropriate times as well as the logistics of filling location-based quotas. For this reason, and partly to keep the project within budget, the proportion of mobile phone numbers was lower than fixed line numbers.

To accommodate the dual-frame approach, the sample included Random Digit Dialling (RDD) mobile and fixed line numbers generated by SampleWorx, as well as additional sample of fixed line telephone numbers provided by SamplePages. Both sample sources are only available for the purposes of market and social research.

The decision to use RDD mobile and fixed line numbers as the primary source for the sample was made to ensure that the respondent base was as free from bias as possible. The RDD process takes known number ranges for Australian fixed line and telephone numbers and generates phone numbers in those ranges randomly. For mobile RDD, these numbers are verified as "live" by the sample provider prior to inclusion in the sample.

The inclusion of a mobile sample facilitated the sending of SMS messages to sample members. After they had been called once with no contact made, 4,411 sample members were sent an SMS with the following wording:

We are contacting you on behalf of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to do a survey on privacy. Wallis market and social research will call you from 03 9940 2###. You do not have to do the survey. When we call, let us know and we will not call again. More info: www.oaic.gov.au or www.wallisgroup.com.au.

They were able to reply to the message to opt out of the study. In total 96 replied with 85 opting out of the study.

The standard ring time for the project was increased to 30 seconds to allow sufficient time for sample members with mobile phones to locate the phone and answer it.

 Questionnaire development

The questionnaire was based on the last Community Attitudes to Privacy Study conducted in 2007. The questionnaire was developed for the 2013 study by the OAIC in consultation with an internal steering committee comprised of representatives from the OAIC's three branches - Dispute resolution, Regulation and strategy and Corporate support and communications.

The Privacy Advisory Committee - a Committee established under the Privacy Act and comprising of representatives from unions, health service providers, business and government as well as a consumer representative - was also consulted. The study's primary sponsor, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, was provided with an opportunity to contribute a question to the survey. The Commonwealth Bank provided feedback on a number of areas covered by the survey but did not seek the addition of a question.

A number of questions were retained in the form that they had been asked since the study was first conducted in 2001. These questions relate to awareness of privacy laws and trust in organisations.

Most other questions were modified slightly to reflect changes that have occurred. For example the last study contained a set of questions on attitudes towards CCTV, which was a big issue in 2007. Similarly, a question on trustworthiness of industry sectors was modified to include social media and technology companies, which were in their infancy then.

Some new questions were added, including questions on what people regard as the biggest privacy risks, transparency of information handling practices, data loss, online tracking, smart phones, social networking, the actions people take to protect their own privacy, and credit reporting.

It was also decided to define the scope for the study at the beginning of the questionnaire by providing the following information:

In Australia, privacy law relates to the protection of an individual's 'personal information'. This is any information about you that identifies you or could reasonably be used to identify you. For example, this includes things like:

  • your name or address
  • financial details
  • photos
  • your opinions and beliefs
  • membership of groups and affiliations
  • racial or ethnic origin
  • health information (including genetic information)
  • sexual preferences
  • criminal record.

 Pilot study

A pilot study comprising 21 interviews was conducted on 6 June 2013. The pilot aimed to test the questionnaire for sense and duration. While the questionnaire was deemed by the pilot team to have good flow and was well understood by respondents, it ran for 28 minutes. Following the pilot the questionnaire was modified slightly to reduce the overall length. The main method used to do this was to assess each question and to combine together some that were measuring very similar ideas. Nonetheless, nearly all questions were deemed to be essential to the study and the average length was only shortened by two minutes.

 Weighting

The data were weighted for age, sex and location to adjust it to represent the Australian community. As interviewing quotas had been set for age and location to reflect the actual numbers in the population, the effect of the weighting was minimal.

Weighting has the effect of altering the number of responses that should be considered when statistical analysis and testing are carried out on the results. This is because, while weighting makes the total number of interviews represent the population of interest, in this case the Australian community, it has not changed the actual number of interviews conducted and the relative differences in the sizes of those groups. It is this base that significance tests use to show whether or not results are really different from each other, and therefore worthy of comment, or whether they relate to sample design.

Table 4. Weighting and sample variance

Demographic Category

Base (#)

Base (#)

Target weight (#)

Weighted (#)

Difference (Base % vs Weighted %)

Effective Base

Sample variance for survey estimates of 10%-50%

 Age

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18-24 years

104

10%

2,013,963

12%

-2%

102

±6-10%

25-34 years

119

12%

2,956,390

18%

-6%

116

±5-9%

35-54 years

308

31%

5,999,382

36%

-6%

302

±3-6%

55-64 years

274

27%

2,495,351

15%

12%

269

±4-6%

65 years and over

195

20%

3,006,728

18%

1%

191

±4-7%

 Region

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greater Sydney

193

19%

3,384,255

21%

-1%

193

±4-7%

Rest of NSW/ACT

135

14%

2,198,103

13%

0%

135

±5-8%

Greater Melbourne

191

19%

3,112,669

19%

0%

191

±4-7%

Rest of Vic.

72

7%

1,029,614

6%

1%

72

±7-12%

Greater Brisbane

104

10%

1,567,604

10%

1%

104

±6-10%

Rest of Qld

91

9%

1,699,591

10%

-1%

91

±6-10%

Greater Adelaide

56

6%

961,565

6%

0%

56

±8-13%

Rest of SA/NT

29

3%

435,463

3%

0%

29

±11-18%

Greater Perth

82

8%

1,326,617

8%

0%

82

±6-11%

Rest of WA

23

2%

376,077

2%

0%

23

±12-20%

Greater Hobart

9

1%

163,567

1%

0%

9

±20-33%

Rest of Tas.

15

2%

216,689

1%

0%

15

±15-25%

 Gender

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male

432

43%

8,043,672

49%

-6%

390

±3-5%

Female

568

57%

8,428,142

51%

6%

512

±3-4%

Total

1000

100%

16,471,814

100%

0%

891

±2-3%

 

In survey research it is usually impossible to talk with everyone to be certain about how the community feels about an issue. Instead researchers talk to smaller groups of people, or a sample, and estimate what everyone thinks on the basis of the answers from the people they have spoken with. In this case, 1000 people were interviewed.

People in the sample are chosen to represent the community and, as explained earlier, minimum numbers of people are required to make reliable estimates. Nonetheless, it is impossible to be completely certain that a sample of respondents thinks exactly the same way as everyone making up the population. There are, therefore some errors inherent in making an estimate from a smaller group of the population. In addition, there is an issue of variability. Every time a survey is conducted there is a likelihood that the survey results may differ slightly as the same people are not being interviewed. Quite small total numbers of interviews may, nonetheless, give very accurate estimates. The total sample of 1,000 gives answers that will fall within a 2-3% error range, the bulk of the time.

Researchers run "significance" tests to check if differences between two results are real or whether they have happened because of variability. The standard approach is to report on findings at the 95% level. This means that if the survey is repeated 100 times, 95 times out of 100 times, the results would be within the same error range. Table 4 shows the error limits for variables that are used in analysis. Thus, readers can be confident that all results reported are based on findings that are real and different by at least the amounts shown in the table, which for age is 3-10%, depending on age group, and for gender is 3-5%.

The sample variance is at its greatest the closer to 50% the results are and at its least the closer to 0% or 100%. Table 4 shows the accuracy of survey estimates for the analytical variables for 10% and 50% - most answers will fall somewhere between these two, but significance tests calculate the actual value for every number.

 Analysis

The data from this study and the 2007 study were cross-tabulated and significance tests were run on the data at the 95% confidence interval as outlined earlier. Cross-tabulation involves automatically adding up all the responses to a question by some variables that are of interest, for example, age, gender or location. The analyst can then see patterns of response and whether there are any different responses between variables, and whether variables are dependent on others. For example, there is a clear relationship between increasing level of education achieved and increasing household income.

 Definitions

Most definitions used are self-explanatory, for example, age groups, geographic location and gender. Throughout this report people working in different types of occupations are referred to as "blue collar" and "white collar". These are standard classifications used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and follow the Australia and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). White collar refers to people working in largely office based roles and includes Managers, Professionals, Community and Personal Service Workers, Clerical and Administrative Workers, and Sales Workers. Blue collar refers to people working in mainly manual occupations and includes Technicians and Trades Workers, Machinery Operators and Drivers, and Labourers. These groups are divided into upper and lower. For white collar workers "upper" generally denotes managers or professionals while lower refers to more clerical positions. For blue collar workers "upper" generally denotes skilled trades people while "lower" refers to unskilled workers.

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 4.0 Detailed findings

This study of community attitudes to privacy covered a number of key areas, namely:

  • awareness of Federal privacy laws
  • general attitudes towards privacy and personal information
  • privacy problems and complaints
  • trust
  • personal responsibility
  • medical and health information
  • privacy in the workplace
  • ID scanning
  • internet and smart phones
  • ID theft and fraud
  • credit reporting.

The survey findings are organised under these key headings. The questionnaire, which is appended, does not follow this same structure exactly as it was more important to ensure that questions flowed logically for the respondent than for the analyst.

Definition of 'personal information'

In Australia, privacy law relates to the protection of an individual's personal information. Therefore, a number of survey questions refer to 'personal information'. As this was a lengthy survey, the decision was taken to provide respondents a definition of what is meant by personal information based on the definition in the Privacy Act.

In Australia, privacy law relates to the protection of an individual's 'personal information'. This is any information about you that identifies you or could reasonably be used to identify you. For example, this includes things like:

  • your name or address
  • financial details
  • photos
  • your opinions and beliefs
  • membership of groups and affiliations
  • racial or ethnic origin
  • health information (including genetic information)
  • sexual preferences
  • criminal record.

In previous studies, while the line of questioning aimed to keep respondents focussed on the area of interest, some of the answers showed that they were straying into the area of personal space in their answers.

Giving survey participants a working definition early in the survey does not seem to have had a major impact on answers to questions that have been asked before. It has, naturally, affected the range of answers given to open-ended questions, particularly those at the beginning of the survey where participants were asked to define perceived privacy risks and areas of perceived infringement of their privacy.

Factors that may have influenced responses

Not surprisingly privacy has rarely been out of the news since the study was last conducted in 2007. The media continues to report on exciting new technologies that raise privacy questions, as well as significant invasions of privacy and data breaches.

Not long before the study commenced the media started to report on US intelligence surveillance programs that involved the participation of technology companies that offer a range of popular online services. Public debate on these revelations grew significantly during the life of the survey and may have had some effect on how people chose to respond to some of the survey questions, in particular questions on general attitudes to privacy, trust and the internet.

 Awareness of Federal privacy laws

The Privacy Act is an Australian law that regulates the handling of personal information about individuals. This includes the collection, use, storage and disclosure of personal information.

The Privacy Act is of pivotal importance to this study.[4] One of the key reasons for undertaking this study now is to gain a baseline measure of understanding prior to introduction of amendments to the Privacy Act in March 2014. Nonetheless, the name of the legislation will remain the same.

Chart 1 shows that the vast majority (82%) of Australians claimed to be aware of Federal privacy laws prior to this interview. The proportion of respondents who reported they were not aware was one in six (17%) and a very small proportion (1%) of respondents indicated they were unsure.

This compares favourably to the result when last measured when two thirds of Australians claimed awareness of the laws (69%). It continues a gradual increase in awareness from its low point when first measured in 2001 at just over four in ten (43%) to a majority awareness in 2004 of six in ten (60%).

The pattern of awareness has not changed substantially. In 2013, awareness peaks in the 35-64 age range at just under nine in ten (86%). This is similar to 2007 where awareness was also relatively high amongst this age group (74%), compared to younger and older Australians.

Australians maintain a similar level of awareness of Federal privacy laws regardless of gender. In 2013, just over eight in ten males (84%) and females (81%) were aware of Federal privacy laws versus seven in ten of each in 2007 (70% and 68% respectively).

The level of awareness increases in accordance with educational attainment, and is significantly greater amongst those who have completed year 12 than those who have not. In 2013, seven in ten (72%) respondents who completed up to year 10 were aware of Federal privacy laws, compared to around eight in ten of those who have completed year 12 (81%), a Diploma/TAFE (82%) or a Bachelor's degree (85%) and is at nine in ten (91%) amongst those with a Postgraduate degree.

Chart 1. Awareness of Federal privacy law by age

Chart 1

Q6 Were you aware of the Federal privacy laws before this interview?

 General attitudes towards privacy and personal information

Biggest privacy risk

Survey participants were asked at the outset of the survey interview to name the biggest privacy risks that they think face the community. Nearly half of the population (48%) suggested that using online services and social media sites pose the greatest risk. As can be seen in Table 5, this is by far the biggest risk perceived by six in ten respondents aged 18-24 years (60%). Australians working in white collar jobs are the most concerned about this risk.

ID fraud and theft (23%), and the related problems of fraudulent use of financial information (11%), and easy access to personal details (9%) was considered to be the second biggest issue. People aged between 25 and 45 were the most concerned about this. This may be because people in this age group are also the most likely to have been the victim of this activity, or to know someone who has been (see 'ID theft and fraud', below)'. Residents of Queensland (28%) and Western Australia (29%) continued to be more concerned about this issue than other Australians. As was the case in the 2007 study, residents of Western Australia reported higher levels of ID fraud and theft. People aged 55-64, while still concerned about ID fraud and theft, reported the highest levels of concern about fraudulent use of financial details rather than other personal details. Again this seems to relate to personal experience. There was general unease about the lack of security of personal information, which peaked at one in eight people aged 25-34 (13%).

As noted above, during the interviewing period there was global public debate around US surveillance programs such as PRISM which may have led to data security and breaches being considered the third greatest risk, mentioned by one in six (16%) Australians.

Other issues were identified as the biggest privacy risk by less than one in twenty Australians overall, although there were some differences by respondent type. For example, different age groups gave greater importance to some of these risks:

  • amongst 25-34 year olds smartphone apps were considered a problem (7%)
  • the gathering of profiling information for marketing or commercial purposes was mentioned by more than one in twenty people aged 35-54 (7%)
  • people aged over 50 felt more threatened by unsolicited phone calls (5%) than younger Australians
  • over one in ten younger adults (11% of 18-24 year olds) could not think of any privacy risks.

Some other points of interest are:

  • Only people working in lower white or blue collar occupations felt that information relating to ethnicity or race poses a privacy risk, with the greatest concern being amongst people in lower blue collar occupations (3%).
  • Men were significantly more likely than women to worry about information being captured and handled by the government (5% compared with 2%).
  • Residents of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory were the most concerned about organisations collecting profiling information for commercial gain (9%).
Table 5. Biggest privacy risks facing people today by age

Q1. What do you think are the biggest privacy risks that face people today?

Age

 

18-24

25-34

35-54

55-64

65+

Total

(n=104)
%

(n=119)
%

(n=308)
%

(n=274)
%

(n=195)
%

(n=1,000)
%

Online services/ social media sites

60

49

50

46

38

48

ID theft/ fraud

18

28

26

23

17

23

Data security/ data breaches

13

13

19

16

18

16

Credit reporting

-

-

2

2

3

2

Smart phones/ apps

2

7

3

2

3

4

Unsolicited phone calls

-

2

3

5

5

3

Surveillance

4

5

3

2

2

3

ID scanning

-

-

1

2

1

1

Sending information overseas

-

1

1

1

2

1

Workplace privacy

1

-

1

-

-

1

Personal details too easily available/accessible/not secure

9

13

6

12

10

9

Information relating to ethnicity/ race

1

1

1

-

1

1

Unauthorized monitoring of information/data mining

3

1

1

2

2

1

Financial details/ information/ fraud

8

9

10

18

13

11

Commercial interests/ marketing about buying habits/ profile

1

3

6

3

2

4

Government information sharing/ information collection

2

3

3

5

5

3

Information relating to religious beliefs

-

-

-

1

1

<1

Criminal history too easy to access

-

-

-

-

1

<1

How frequently we have to give out personal information

-

-

<1

-

1

<1

Other

-

2

2

3

3

2

Don't know

11

7

5

5

9

7

Base: All respondents

Note: Bold denotes a significant increase

Table 5 shows these results in more detail by age group, as this was the biggest differentiating factor in views.

Generally, Australians held very consistent opinions. However, some significant differences in results are summarised below.

  • ID fraud and theft was of greatest concern to people aged between 25 and 54 years of age.
  • Inappropriate access to financial details was of most concern to people aged between 55 and 64.
  • Lack of security of personal details was of greatest concern to people aged 25-34 and 55-64.
  • Potential risks posed by smartphone apps caused more than one in twenty people (7%) aged 25-34 to mention this as a privacy risk spontaneously - twice the level of any other age group.
  • Unsolicited phone calls were of greatest concern with people aged over 55.
  • Credit reporting was mentioned increasingly by people aged over 35.
  • ID scanning was more of a concern for 55-64 year olds.
  • People aged under 24 were the most likely to not hold any fears with one in ten (11%) being unable to identify any risks.

Activities considered a misuse of information

Australians were read a number of scenarios similar to some that had been put to them in a previous study in 2007. They were asked whether or not they considered each scenario to describe misuse of personal information. The majority agreed that all scenarios represented a misuse of information.

Chart 2. A misuse of information

Chart 2

Q12 Which of the following instances would you regard to be a misuse of your personal information?

There is almost universal agreement that the following are a misuse of personal information.

  • Revealing personal information to other customers (97%);
  • Using personal information for a purpose other than the one it was provided (97%); and
  • The collection of personal information by an organisation that a person has not dealt with before (96%).

More than nine in ten (93%) people believe that an organisation asking for information that is not relevant to the transaction and monitoring activities on the internet without the individual's knowledge are misuses too. Almost eight in ten (79%) believe sending customer data to an overseas processing centre is also a misuse.

Similar scenarios were asked in 2007 and these results are similar with the 2013 results. Over seven in ten respondents reported it is a misuse of their personal information for each scenario.

In 2007, the scenarios were asked for private business and government departments separately. The results were as follows:

  • A (business / government department) monitors your activities on the Internet, recording information on the sites you visit without your knowledge (96% / 86% respectively)
  • A (business / government department) asks you for personal information that doesn't seem to be relevant to the purpose of the transaction (94% / 87% respectively)
  • You supply your information to a (business / government department) for a specific purpose and the business/agency uses it for another purpose (94% / 86% respectively)
  • A (business / government department) you haven't dealt with gets hold of your personal information (93% / 73% respectively).

Australians have been asked how they feel when an organisation they have not dealt with sends them unsolicited marketing information. It appears that Australians are feeling increasingly annoyed by this practice, with the proportion of people who say it annoys them reaching almost half of the population (45%) from a quarter when it was first measured in 2001 (25%).

The other options, namely it is annoying but harmless (11%) declined by half compared with the last survey in 2007. Only one in twenty Australians now say that unsolicited marketing information either doesn't bother them (3%) or that they enjoy reading it (2%). Together these categories accounted for three in ten Australians when measured in 2001 and 2004.

Chart 3. Feelings in relation to being sent unsolicited marketing information by an unknown organisation

Chart 3

Q33 Which of the following statements best describes how you generally feel when organisations that you have never dealt with before send you unsolicited marketing information?

The level of concern with how their personal information was obtained seems to have decreased since 2007, however, it is worth noting that when last asked, this question allowed multiple responses. Therefore the decline from a situation where just over five in ten (53%) respondents were concerned in 2007, to just under four in ten in 2013 (39%) may relate to the fact that respondents had to choose one of the options presented to them, not many.

Concern about sending personal information overseas

When asked to express their level of concern over Australian organisations sending customers' personal data overseas, six in ten (62%) expressed strong concern (in 2007, 63%) with a further three in ten (28%) saying they were somewhat concerned about this practice (in 2007, 27%).

While the results are similar in comparison to 2007, there were some notable differences amongst respondents, particularly:

  • Older people were more concerned than younger people. While eight in ten (83%) people aged 18-24 were concerned, the proportion who were very concerned (29%) was considerably lower than amongst people aged over 65. Nearly all (96%) people over 65 were concerned, with eight in ten (83%) of them being very concerned.
  • High income households were less concerned than lower income households. Nine in ten (94%) people in low income households were concerned with the majority (71%) being very concerned. Amongst people living in households with incomes above $100,000 eight in ten (83%) people were concerned with just under a half (48%) being very concerned.
  • Women were more concerned than men. In particular, two thirds of women (67%) were very concerned out of a total of nine in ten (92%) being concerned, compared with six in ten (58%) men being very concerned out of a total of nine in ten (88%) being concerned.

Chart 4. Concern about personal information being sent overseas

Chart 4

Q13 How concerned are you about Australian businesses sending their customers' personal information overseas to be processed?

 Privacy problems and complaints

Respondents were asked whether they had experienced a problem with how their personal information had been handled in the last 12 months. This question has not been asked before and demonstrates that a considerable proportion of the community had experienced problems.

A third (33%) of Australians said that they had a problem with the way their personal information was handled in the last year. The proportion rises steeply amongst working Australians (38% of those working versus 26% of those not working). It increases steeply as household income rises to the point where nearly four in ten Australians (39%) living in households earning over $100,000 have had a recent problem.

Chart 5. Organisations people would report misuse of personal information to

Chart 5

Q17 If you wanted to report misuse of your personal information to someone, who would you be MOST likely to contact?

In previous studies, people had been asked to comment on the organisations they believe are appropriate to report such a misuse to. Chart 5 shows 2013 responses compared to 2007:

  • More people are now aware that they should contact the organisation that misused the information. Three in ten (30%) suggest this is the best course of action (versus 13% in 2007).
  • Fewer people suggested that reporting such information to the Police would be appropriate, with the proportion dropping to one in six (17%) from three in ten (30%).
  • A similar proportion thought that they would go to the appropriate Ombudsman (17%) or government department (9%) as when last measured (19% and 8% respectively in 2007).
  • The proportion who mentioned the Privacy Commissioner (4%) declined from 2007 (10%).
  • There was an increase in the proportion of people who did not know who to report problems to - now over a quarter (27%) of the population gave this response -up from one in five (20%). These respondents were also less likely to be aware of privacy laws (34%) in comparison to those who were aware (25%).

 Trust

This section examines the extent to which people's level of trust in certain organisations has a bearing on the amount and nature of information they are willing to provide. Topics examined are:

  • the types of information that people are reluctant to provide
  • the levels of trust that people place in different types of organisations' information handling capabilities
  • expectations of transparency in information handling practices in both the public and private sectors (including when it comes to data breach)
  • attitudes towards providing personal information in exchange for benefits.

Types of personal information people are reluctant to provide

People continue to be the most concerned about providing financial details (58%) and the proportion of people who display this level of concern has been constant since it was first measured in 2001 (59%). While the provision of this information is a concern for all, reluctance to provide these details increases with age, with under a half of people aged 18-24 mentioning it (44%) compared with six in ten amongst people aged 65 or over (60%).

After financial details, there have been some changes - some of which can be explained by the provision of the definition of 'personal information' at the beginning of the questionnaire. In particular, mentioning 'photographs' and 'sexual preferences' in the introduction has clearly raised awareness of the sensitivity of these types of personal information and they have been mentioned spontaneously for the first time (7% and 3% respectively).

The changing technological environment has undoubtedly underpinned other trends. For example, 'home address', is becoming a more protected piece of information with a quarter of people saying they are reluctant to give this (24%) in comparison to almost one in five people (19%) in 2007. This result is strongly related to age, with almost twice as many people aged under 35 (32%) being reluctant to provide this information compared to people aged 55-64 (15%) or 65 and over (17%). Victorians are also the least reluctant to give this information (29%).

Other interesting trends are:

  • An increased reluctance to provide date of birth details, particularly amongst people who are working, in general, and those who are earning high incomes in particular.
  • Reluctance to give a phone number has declined since 2007. Queenslanders are the least concerned with giving out their phone numbers (7%). Women are significantly more reluctant (17%) than men (12%) to give this information.
  • An increasing proportion of Australians feeling reluctant to discuss the composition of their households (from 1% in 2001 to 6% in 2013), although there has also been a drop in the proportion of people reluctant to divulge their marital status (from 7% in 2007 to 3% in 2013). Taken together these items have remained consistent, so this may reflect changes in living arrangements in general.
  • There has been a continuous decline in concerns over providing genetic information. The proportion of people who are reluctant to provide generic information since it was first measured in 2001 has decreased from over one in ten people (13%) to less than one in ten people (1%) in 2013.
Table 6. Information Australians are reluctant to provide to businesses and Government

Q2. In general, what types of information are you reluctant to provide?

2001

2004

2007

2013

(n=1,524)

%

(n=1,507)

%

(n=1,503)

%

(n=1,000)

%

Financial details

59

58

43

58

(Home) Address

14

20

19

24

Date of birth

7

8

10

16

(Home) Phone number

17

22

25

15

Name

6

7

4

10

Email address

11

19

14

7

Medical information

25

21

6

7

Photo ID/ information/ passport / driver's licence number/ cards and access numbers

-

-

-

7

Household composition and relationships

1

2

4

6

Religion/ Personal Beliefs/ Affiliations

2

3

2

4

Marital status

9

9

7

3

Sexual preferences

-

-

-

3

Genetic information

13

11

5

1

Other

-

-

4

4

None

16

11

10

9

Base: All respondents

Note: Bold denotes a significant move up between 2004 to 2007; Italics denotes a significant shift down between 2004 to 2007

Note: Answers add up to more than 100 as multiple responses were given

 

When asked which one of these pieces of information they were most reluctant to provide, financial information was by far the most often mentioned (49%) and all other items shown in Table 7 were mentioned by fewer than one in ten people, namely address (home and email), date of birth, phone number, medical or genetic information and the composition of the household.

The reasons for this reluctance are shown in Table 8. Some interesting trends emerge here. Firstly, the proportion of Australians who simply stated that they were reluctant to give information because 'it's none of their business' has halved over the last 12 years from a half of the population in 2001 (51%) to a quarter (25%) now. At the same time security concerns (19%) and the potential for personal financial loss (15%) have risen significantly (from 2% and 7% respectively in 2001).

Table 7. Piece of information Australians are most reluctant to provide

Q3. Which one of these [answers given for Q2] do you feel MOST RELUCTANT to provide?

2001

2004

2007

2013

(n=1,524)

%

(n=1,507)

%

(n=1,503)

%

(n=1,000)

%

Financial details / Income

51

51

53

49

(Home) Address

4

7

7

7

Date of birth

1

1

3

6

(Home) Phone number

3

5

9

4

Email address

2

5

5

2

Medical information

7

5

2

2

Household composition and relationships

<1

<1

2

2

Genetic information

3

2

<1

<1

Base: All respondents

Note: Bold denotes a significant move up between 2004 to 2007; Italics denotes a significant shift down between 2004 to 2007

Table 8. Reasons for reluctance to give key piece of information

Q4. What is your MAIN reason for not wanting to provide [answer from Q3]?

2001

2004

2007

2013

(n=1,524)

%

(n=1,507)

%

(n=1,503)

%

(n=859)

%

It's none of their business/ privacy

51

44

36

25

For safety/ security/ protection from crime

2

6

12

19

May lead to financial loss/ people might access bank account

7

8

14

15

The information may be misused/ information might be passed on without my knowledge

12

8

11

12

Unnecessary/ irrelevant to their business or cause

2

5

9

8

I do not want to be identified

3

1

2

6

I do not want people knowing where I live or how to contact me

6

5

5

5

I don't want to be bothered/ hassled/ hounded by phone or door to door

1

5

12

4

Don't want junk mail/ unsolicited mail/ SPAM

1

5

11

2

Discrimination

4

3

2

2

Other

3

3

2

2

Can't say

4

2

1

-

Base: All giving one item of personal information that they would feel reluctant providing

Note: Bold denotes a significant move up between 2004 to 2007; Italics denotes a significant shift down between 2004 to 2007

Reluctance to provide information for fear of the sales and marketing repercussions peaked in 2007. At that time nearly a quarter of the population said either that they were reluctant to give information for fear of being hounded by tele or door to door sales people (12%) or the fear that it would lead to unwanted mail (11%).

In the 2013 study, just over one in twenty Australians reported that they have these concerns (4% and 2% respectively). These trends may also relate to the introduction of the Spam Act 2003 and the Do Not Call Register Act 2006. Both pieces of legislation clarified Australians' rights and provided an avenue for complaint.

Providing personal information for benefits

Participants were asked whether discounted purchases, a prize or improved service would overcome this reticence. As Chart 6 shows, the majority says that they are not prepared to exchange personal information for these benefits. However, a sizeable minority says they are likely to give information in exchange for a tangible benefit, particularly in exchange for lower prices (28%) or better service (34%).

Respondents in 2007 were asked whether they are likely to give up information in exchange for a lower prices or a prize. Just over two out of ten (22%) respondents said they would in exchange for a discount (22%) and over two in twenty (13%) said they would for a prize.

Prizes are considered to provide the least incentive for giving personal information with over eight in ten people (81%) saying they are unlikely to do this, with well over half of the population (56%) saying that they are very unlikely to do so.

Respondents were more willing to provide personal information in exchange for better services if they are aged 18-24 (41% compared with 29% for people aged over 35) or if they live in a metropolitan area (37% compared with 28% in regional Australia).

People who are not working and/or live in households that earn less than $75,000 are the least likely to trade off personal information for better service.

Chart 6. Australians' willingness to give personal information in exchange for a benefit

Chart 6

Q9/10/11 How likely or unlikely are you to provide your personal information to an organisation if it meant you would receive discounted purchases/the chance to win a prize/better service?

Transparency of information handling practices in public and private sectors

Australians have generally demonstrated a higher level of trust in the public sector than in private organisations. They were asked a new series of questions designed to ascertain if there is a difference in expectations in regards to the transparency of information handling practices of public and private sector organisations.

Australians' answers suggest that while they believe government agencies should be transparent in the handling of their information, they are more demanding of being informed if that information is mishandled (96% agree with both these propositions, and 78% and 88% respectively strongly agree). The results were similar for the private sector (95% and 96%), although the increased importance of being informed in the event they lose personal information over being transparent in the manner information is to be used was less marked (with 81% and 85% respectively agreeing strongly with these propositions).

Australians hold clear views on the way in which private and public sector organisations should handle their information, with fewer than one per cent being unable to offer their opinions.

Table 9. Transparency of information handling practices in public and private sectors

 Q14 items

Strongly Agree %

Somewhat Agree %

Neither %

Somewhat Disagree %

Strongly Disagree %

Don't Know %

It's extremely important that government agencies tell me how they protect and handle my personal information

78

18

2

2

1

 0

It's extremely important that private sector organisations tell me how they protect and handle my personal information

81

14

1

3

1

0

If a business loses my personal information they should tell me

85

11

1

2

1

1

If a government agency loses my personal information they should tell me

88

8

1

1

1

0

Q14 Thinking about the way that your personal information is handled by private sector and organisations and government agencies, do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Level of trust in types of organisations

Australians were asked to state the extent to which they trust twelve different types of organisation. Health service providers continue to enjoy the highest levels of trust with nine in ten (90%) Australians saying they are trustworthy - the same level (91%) as when measured six years ago. Social media organisations were considered to be the least trustworthy with only one in ten (9%) respondents trusting them with their personal information.

Of the types of organisations that were included in the 2007 study, four have greater levels of public trust in them:

  • Financial institutions enjoy trust amongst three quarters of the public (74%) compared with six in ten in 2007 (58%).
  • Insurance companies have moved up 9 percentage points (from 46% to 54%).
  • Real estate agents are now considered trustworthy by a third of the population (33%) compared with a quarter six years ago (24%).
  • e-Commerce companies now have the trust of a quarter of the population (26%) compared with one in five (18%).

 

The position of health service providers, government departments, charities and retailers were relatively unchanged. The most trusted organisation to handle personal information is health service providers (in 2013, 90%; in 2007, 91%). The level of trust associated with government departments has slightly decreased (in 2013 to 69% from 73% in 2007). Charities remain relatively consistent as just over half of the respondents (53% and 55%, respectively) reported they trust charities to handle personal information. Just over one in three respondents reported they trust retailers (34% and 36%, respectively).

Only market and social research companies were considered significantly less trustworthy in handling personal information than in 2007 (35% versus 30% in 2013).

Chart 7. Trust in organisations to handle personal information

Chart 7

Q8 How trustworthy or untrustworthy would you say the following organisations are with regards to how they protect or use your personal information?

Three additional types of organisation were included in this study, all of which were considered to be untrustworthy by the majority of Australians:

  • Technology companies were more likely to be considered untrustworthy (49%) than trustworthy (37%).
  • Debt collectors - only three in ten (31%) Australians considered debt collectors to be trustworthy.
  • Social media organisations were considered to be trustworthy by only one in ten (9%) Australians.

There was a pattern of declining trust with increasing age in relation to nearly all types of organisations. The exceptions to this were retailers, where nearly a half of over 65 year olds said they were trustworthy (46%) and social media, where trust was highest amongst over 65 year olds.

 Personal responsibility

Measures taken to protect personal information

Australians were asked how often, if ever, they took a number of measures in order to protect their personal information. Their answers are summarised in Chart 8, which shows the proportion of Australians who:

  • refuse to provide personal information
  • read privacy policies prior to providing personal information
  • ask questions of organisations as to why particular information is needed
  • shred documents
  • check the security of a website
  • clear their searching and browsing history
  • choose not to use a smartphone app because of the information requested in order to use it
  • adjust privacy settings on social networking sites
  • provide false details
  • provide a false name.

Only three people out of all the people interviewed claimed never to take any of these measures (less than 0.2%). However, while practically all Australians do something, they do not do everything routinely. Over four in ten (43%) said they "always" check that a website is secure before providing personal information, and around three in ten said they always shred documents (32%) or ask organisations why they need personal information prior to giving it (29%).

It is interesting to note that females (38%) are more likely to shred documents to protect personal information in comparison to males (25%). Four out of ten respondents (40%) aged 35+ years reported taking this measure in comparison to younger respondents aged 18-34 years (16%) and they were also more likely to read privacy policies with almost three out of ten people (29%) stating this in comparison to respondents aged 18-35 years (12%). On the other hand, younger respondents (aged 18-34 years) were more likely to check the security of a website than those aged 35+ years (51% and 38% respectively).

Fewer people provide false personal details (32%) and/or a false name (30%) to protect their privacy and less than one in twenty does so always or often. Similar questions were asked in 2007. Respondents were asked whether they have provided false personal details when completing online forms or applications as a means of protecting their privacy. Most respondents said 'no' (67%) while one in four (25%) said they have. However, just over six in ten people (61%) reported they intentionally leave some questions that ask for their personal details blank to protect their privacy.

Chart 8. Measures taken by Australians to protect their personal information

Chart 8

Q21 In order to protect your personal information, do you.

Avoided dealing with organisations due to privacy concerns

Since 2001, Australians have been asked whether they have decided not to deal with either a government or private sector company because of concerns over the way that organisation might handle their personal information. Their responses are shown in Chart 9.

Chart 9. Australians who have decided not to deal with an organisation because of concerns over the use of personal information

Chart 9

Q18/19 Have you ever decided not to deal with a government agency or public sector / private sector organization because of concerns over the protection or use of your personal information?

 These results indicate a significant change since 2007. While there have been increases amongst Australians of all types, there has been a significant rise in the proportion of people working in white collar occupations who have decided not to provide information to government or private sector organisations because of concerns over the use of that information from four in ten in 2007 (36%) to six in ten (60%). In total, just over six in ten (63%) Australians have decided not to deal with either type of organisation, up from four in ten (40%) in 2007.

Medical and health information

Health professionals sharing patient information

Respondents were asked to nominate which of four options best described their views on access to health information (multiple responses had been allowed previously).

Chart 10. Situations when transfer of health information is appropriate

Chart 10

Q22 Which of the following four options best describes when you think it would be ok for your doctor to share your health information with other health professionals?

Australians displayed quite different opinions with one in three saying that: such information could be transferred without their consent to treat the specific problem at hand (31%); or that consent should always be sought (31%). A quarter of people (25%) take a more relaxed approach, saying that they are happy for information to be shared between health providers for anything to do with their health. A further one in eight (13%) are happy for information to be transferred in serious or life-threatening cases. While the question was asked differently in previous surveys, the pattern of response is similar to the past.

In 2007, just over one in three people (35%) felt that the transfer of health information is appropriate when the purpose is related to the condition being treated. A similar proportion (25%) stated health information should not be transferred unless they ask the patient for their consent. One in four people were happy for their information to be transferred if it had to do with their health, while less than two in ten respondents (17%) said it would be acceptable if they had a serious or life threatening condition. There was no variation in gender or age.

Health professionals discussing patient information

Chart 11 shows that the number of Australians prepared to accept their doctor discussing personal health details with other professionals without consent has increased over time from six in ten (59%) in 2007, to two thirds (66%) in 2013.

This shift has been driven by a large difference in the views of people at both ends of the working spectrum. Whereas in 2007, half (53%) of white collar and six in ten (59%) of blue collar workers agreed with this proposition, in 2013 the proportions are six in ten (63%) and three quarters (76%). People living in blue collar households remain the most accepting of this, but all other sectors of society have drawn closer in their opinions.

Women and men continue to hold slightly different views with seven in ten men (72%) and six in ten women (60%) now supporting their doctors discussing their health details without consent. This support has increased amongst both sexes since 2007 (64% and 55% respectively then).

Chart 11. Acceptability of doctor discussing personal medical details with other health professionals

Chart 11

Q23 To what extent do you think your doctor should be able to discuss your personal medical details with other health professionals in a way that identifies you without your consent if they believe this will assist your treatment?

Age does not seem to have a strong impact on this relationship. However, older people (aged 35+ years) were more likely to be accepting of their doctor discussing personal health details with other professionals without their consent (68%) in comparison to younger people (aged 18-34 years) (60%).

 Privacy in the workplace

As technology develops new privacy issues have arisen, with employers able to access more information about their employees. This section examines some of these issues.

Random drug and alcohol tests

Most Australians, over nine in ten, believe it is acceptable for employers to carry out random drug and alcohol tests for employees who operate heavy machinery (96%), deal directly with children and young people (91%), operate a vehicle (94%) or handle dangerous substances (95%). With the exception of operating a vehicle, more than seven in ten people strongly agree with employers carrying out random drug and alcohol tests in these circumstances.

The proportion of people who stated it was 'completely acceptable' for employers to carry out random drug and alcohol tests for employees who operate a vehicle is close to seven in ten people (67%).

On the subject of dealing with customers, eight in ten (79%) agree that random drug and alcohol testing is acceptable, however, they are evenly divided between believing this is completely acceptable (40%) or just acceptable (39%).

The largest proportion of respondents who reported it is unacceptable for employers to carry out random drug and alcohol tests was for employees who deal directly with customers (19%). This was followed by nine out of ten people (9%) reporting random drug and alcohol tests is not acceptable for employees who deal directly with children and young people (9%), five out of ten people saying random tests are unacceptable for employees operating a vehicle (5%), employees handling a dangerous substance (4%) and those who operate heavy machinery (3%).

Chart 12. Acceptability of random drug and alcohol testing in the workplace

Chart 12

Q35 Thinking about random drug and alcohol tests in the workplace, do you think it is acceptable or unacceptable for employers to carry out these tests for employees who.

Workplace surveillance privacy policies

In 2007, people were asked for the first time whether they felt it is important for employers to have a privacy policy that covers when they will read emails, randomly drug test employees, use surveillance equipment to monitor employees, monitor telephone conversations and monitor activities in work vehicles via GPS.

The same question was asked again in this study and the results were very similar - nearly nine in ten Australians agree that employers should have such a policy (85%). The results were similar across the population in both the 2007 and 2013 survey, with a few exceptions:

  • In 2007, 18-24 year olds placed the lowest level of importance on such policies (84%). This has changed and they now place the highest level of importance (94%), with the level declining with increasing age.
  • In 2007, people living in households with incomes over $100,000 were the most likely to say these policies were very important (70%), whereas they now hold similar views to the rest of the population (although still significantly higher than low income households) (61%).

Chart 13. Consider it important that employers should have a policy covering surveillance practices

Chart 13

Q34 Thinking about the workplace, how important is it to you that an employer has a privacy policy that covers when they will read employee details, randomly drug test employees, use surveillance equipment to monitor employees and monitor telephone conversations and monitor GPS in work vehicles?

 Identification document scanning

Acceptability of identification document scanning

In 2007, respondents were asked whether they felt it was acceptable to be asked to show or have a copy of identification documents made in a range of day-to-day circumstances. In 2013, the question was modified slightly to ask only about the acceptability of making a copy or scan of these documents.

The pattern of results between the two studies was similar. The greatest support for copying material was in order to obtain a credit card, which was considered to be acceptable by two thirds of the population (69% now compared with 57% in 2007). Support was lowest for purchasing general goods with only one in twenty (5% now and 4% in 2007) saying this is acceptable.

In general, Australians are more accepting of having their identification documentation copied compared to in 2007:

  • An increase from 57% to 69% who say it is acceptable to scan or copy documentation in order to obtain a credit card.
  • An increase from 23% to 31% for people who believe it is acceptable when purchasing goods that require the purchaser to be over 18.
  • An increase from 18% to 28% in those finding it acceptable to have their identity documents copied in order to enter licensed premises (e.g. pub, club or hotel).
Table 10. Attitudes towards scanning or copying identification documents

Q36 items

Acceptable %

Not Acceptable %

Don't Know %

To purchase general goods

5

95

1

To purchase cigarettes

24

75

1

On entry to licensed premises

28

72

1

To purchase good for which you need to be over 18

31

67

2

To obtain a credit card

69

29

2

Base: All respondents (n=1000)

Note: Multiple responses given

Q36 In which of the following situations, if any, do you think it is acceptable that a COPY or SCAN is made of your identification documents?

There are a few differences of opinion within the community on this issue. In particular, people who are working are significantly more likely to support having identification documents scanned in order to obtain a credit card (72%) compared with those who are not working (64%).

The opposite position is true for purchasing goods for which you need to be aged 18 or over, where people who are working find this significantly less acceptable (29%) than those who are not working (36%). The acceptability of having identification documentation copied in order to be able to buy general goods (e.g. clothing and food) declines from nearly one in ten (9%) people educated up to Year 10 to one per cent of people who have completed postgraduate studies.

Biometrics

The use of biometric data is increasing at a rapid rate. For example, it is now common practice to be required to provide such information in order to travel internationally. Australians were asked to indicate how concerned they are about having to provide biometric data, including their fingerprints, photo ID or iris scans in a number of different situations.

Australians were not keen on the need to use this data to gain access to a pub, club bar or hotel, with seven in ten (71%) being either very concerned (41%) or somewhat concerned (28%) at this prospect. The level of concern was consistent across age groups, but there were higher levels in New South Wales (76%), and South Australia and the Northern Territory (77%).

Over half of the population was concerned about having to use biometric information to access their place of work or study (55%) or to do their day to day banking (54%). 18-24 year olds were the most concerned with both ideas, with concern declining with age. However, concern was at over 50% for all age groups.

The majority of respondents were less concerned by the use of biometric information to get on a flight, with four in ten people saying they were concerned - women (44%), significantly more than men (36%).

One in five people had no concerns about the use of biometric information in any of the situations suggested to them (20%). This was true across all demographic categories, although those with no concerns were more likely to be Queenslanders (27%).

Table 11. Concern with using biometric data in a number of day to day situations

Q37 items

Very Concerned %

Somewhat Concerned %

Not Concerned %

Don't Know %

Go into a licenced bar, club or hotel

43

28

29

1

Get into your place of work or study

25

30

43

2

Do your day to day banking

25

28

45

2

Get on a flight

17

23

59

<1

Base: All respondents (n=1000)

Q37 How concerned are you about using biometric information for you to.

 Internet and smartphones

The way in which people access the internet has changed dramatically since the last survey. A number of factors have contributed to this, including a significant growth in the use of social networking sites and the development of smartphone and tablet technology.

According to a recent report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), by May 2012 almost half of adult Australians had a smartphone and they were being used increasingly to access the internet (ACMA, Communications Report 2011-12 Series. Report 3 - Smartphones and Tablets, 2012). Whereas mobile phones were used largely to make calls or send SMS messages or emails, the raft of services now available on smartphones and other mobile platforms is enormous, as is the amount of personal information that is being transmitted through them.

The series of questions posed in the 2007 study has been augmented and changed to reflect the different circumstances now.

Understanding of passive data collection on the internet

For the first time, Australians were asked to estimate the proportion of websites and smartphone applications (or apps) that collect information about users.

As Chart 14 shows, over a quarter of the population believes that all websites and Smartphones collect personal information about them. In addition, almost a further six in ten believe that most (42%) or some (17%) websites collect information and nearly half (48%) believe that most (32%) or some (16%) smartphones apps collect information about users of them.

Survey participants were encouraged to make an estimate even if they were not users of the technology themselves. However, those who simply could not make an estimate were asked whether they used the technology or not and the majority said that they could not estimate because they did not use these technologies.

Chart 14. Proportion of websites or Smartphones that collect information about users

Chart 14

Q24/24a What proportion of websites/smartphone apps do you think collect information about the people who visit/use them?

Online tracking and behavioural advertising

Participants were introduced to the concept that search engines and social networking sites track patterns of usage on the internet and maintain databases of information about users to enable sites to target advertising and other offerings to website users. They were then asked to comment.

Chart 15 shows that Australians are generally uncomfortable with the prospect of information being captured and used to target advertising and other offerings to them. They are marginally more comfortable with the concept of having advertising targeted to them based on their online activities, rather than the prospect of having their online activities stored in a database for non-specific purposes - nearly half of the population felt very uncomfortable at this prospect (49%).

Nonetheless, a quarter of the public is comfortable with targeted advertising based on internet behaviour at the time of using the internet (25%), although three in ten people under the age of 55 (27%) are comfortable compared with less than one in seven aged 55 or over (15%).

A slightly smaller proportion is comfortable with browsing behaviour being stored for later targeting (15%). Again people aged under 55 (19%) are more comfortable with this idea and they are twice as likely to be comfortable with this than people aged over 55 (9%).

Chart 15. Degree of comfort with tracking and storing online behavior

Chart 15

Q25 How comfortable are you with.?

Providing personal information online

In 2007, participants were asked whether they were more or less concerned about providing information electronically or online compared to in hardcopy or paper. The situation remains unchanged with two thirds of Australians (67%) saying they are more concerned about providing information electronically or online, than via hardcopy.

People living in households earning under $75,000 remain the most sceptical about the electronic or online provision of personal information, with over seven in ten (72%) people saying they are more concerned when using this format than paper.

In 2007, survey participants were asked whether they were more or less concerned about providing information via the internet than they were two years earlier. A half of Australians (50%) said that they were more concerned - nearly five times as many as the proportion whose concerns had lessened (11%).

Given the interval between surveys, and the substantial changes to technologies in the last few years, participants were asked the same question in 2013 but instead of two years, were asked to consider their position now relative to five years ago. Chart 16 shows that three quarters of people (74%) are more concerned than they were five years ago. This change may reflect the increased timeframe or the data environment. Levels of concern are similar across the board. Only one in twenty participants (5%) claims to be less concerned now than they were five years ago.

The responses of those who felt there had been no change are not shown in Chart 16. On average, a quarter of the population, saw paper and online data collection as being the same (24%), however people living in households earning more than $75,000 were more likely (28%) not to have noted a difference.

Chart 16. Change in level of concern for providing information over the internet in different forms

Chart 16

Q28/29 Are you more or less concerned about providing your personal details electronically or online compare to in hard copy format/ compared with five years ago

One in six Australians (18%) said that they there were no more or less concerned about the privacy of their personal information than they were five years ago. Men were especially likely to have noted no change (21%).

Privacy policies on websites

While the majority of Australians continues to not read privacy policies, the proportion has declined from nearly six in ten (59%) in 2007 to around half (51%) in 2013. Overall, just over four in ten (44%) Australians claim to read website privacy policies. Australians' tendency to read them varied along demographic and attitudinal lines.

  • Readership of privacy policies relates to internet usage, with Australians aged over 65 being the least likely to read them (38%).
  • Females (47%) are more likely to read them than males (41%).
  • Australians with a bachelor degree (46%) or postgraduate qualification (51%) were more likely to read privacy policies than those who had been educated up to year 10 (34%).
  • Experience and behaviour also played a role in propensity to read privacy policies, with those who had boycotted a private company (51%), public organisation (61%), had experienced a problem with personal information (52%) or had some experience of identity theft (51%) being most likely to read privacy policies.

The survey participants who read website policies were asked to describe the impact these have on them. The main response was that they help respondents to make a decision on whether or not to use the site (at 37% an increase from 27% in 2007). Some respondents reported that reading privacy policies gives them more confidence about using the site (15%) - this has decreased from 2007 (25%).

Chart 17. Profile of privacy policy readers

Chart 17

Q30 Do you normally read the privacy policy attached to any internet site?

Table 12. Impact of seeing or reading privacy policies on attitudes towards the site.

Q31. What impact, if any, did seeing or reading these privacy policies have upon your attitude towards the site?

Total

(n=429)

%

Helps me decide whether to use the site or not

37

Feel more confident/comfortable/ secure/ about using site

15

No real impact/ no change

13

Made me more cautious/ aware when using the internet generally

11

It's a good idea/ I approve of the privacy policy they are doing the right thing/ prefer to see on sites/ respect site for having it

8

Still apprehensive about sites that have them/ don't trust them/ not convinced

7

Appear more honest/ trustworthy/ responsible/ legitimate

5

Too long/ complicated to read

5

Unable to enter site without reading it

1

It depends/ varies

1

Doesn't mean much/ legal obligation

1

Other

4

Don't know

8

Base: Respondents who normally read privacy policies

Note: Multiple responses given

Amongst the majority who choose not to read privacy policies, the main reason for this by far is that they are too long (52%) and, related to this, that they are complicated (20%) and boring (9%). One in ten respondents said that they don't use the internet - this is the same proportion of respondents who claimed not to use the internet throughout this study.

Other reasons were given by around one in twenty respondents or less, but they group into several key themes. The main reason is that some readers are discerning and read some policies but not others depending on the nature of usage of the site or knowledge of the site. There is also an element of mistrust - some people said that there is little point in reading a privacy policy that the organisation will not comply with or has taken no care in writing. Having difficulty finding policies on websites is also a deterrent for some people as well as having difficulty reading them.

Table 13. Reasons for not reading privacy policies

Q32. Why don't you read website policies?

Total

(n=515)

%

Too long

52

Too complex

20

Don't use internet or computer

11

Too lazy/ can't be bothered/ boring

9

No need if I trust the organisation

6

Hard to find

5

Agencies and organisations don't comply with them

5

I don't use sites that have or need them

5

Difficult to read small font

3

They are all the same

3

I don't give out information online

2

Do read on some websites

2

I have never seen one

1

No reason

1

Other

4

Don't know

<1

Base: Respondents who don't normally read privacy policies

Note: Multiple responses given

Social networking

In 2007, social networking site Facebook had 21 million registered members[5]. This number has risen to over 980 million now. LinkedIn reports more than 200 million acquired users in more than 200 countries and territories, up from 17 million in early 2007[6].

Community understanding of how social networking sites operate is essential to helping people use social networks in a manner that protects their personal information.

Not surprisingly, when asked whether they had ever posted anything on a social networking site that they later regretted there was a direct relationship with age - the older a person the less likely they are to have regretted something they have posted online.

Chart 18. Understanding of what social networking is

Chart 18

Q27 Do you think that social networking is.?

Chart 18 shows that the majority of people (60%) believe that social networking sites are mainly public activities. These views were held consistently across the community.

The slightly less than one in ten people overall who were unable to answer this question were predominantly aged over 55.

Chart 19. Proportion regretting social networking posts

Chart 19

Q26 Have you ever put any information on a social networking site that you've later regretted sharing with others?

On average, slightly under one in twenty Australians (17%) confirmed that they had regrets about something they had posted, but this figure increased to a third of young adults aged under 24 (33%). A half of people aged over 65 had never posted anything to a social networking site.

 ID theft and fraud

Since the last study was undertaken in 2007, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has introduced a regular survey to estimate the incidence of ID fraud and theft in Australia (CAT No. 4528.0). The first ABS measure was taken in 2007 at a similar time to this study. At that time, one in twenty Australians aged 15 or over (5%) recorded having been the victim of ID fraud and theft, credit card theft or scams in the previous year. In its latest release, based on data collected in 2011, this figure had risen (7%). ID theft is growing at the slowest rate (0.8% in four years), but fraud related to identity, credit cards and scams is growing more quickly (2-3 % over a four year period).

When this study asked adult Australians if they had ever been the victim of ID fraud or theft or whether they know someone who has, one in eight (13%) said that they had been a victim themselves (up from 9% in 2007) and one in five (21%) said it had happened to someone they know (up from 17% in 2007). The trends are thus the same and now a third (33%) of the population has either been the victim of ID fraud or theft or knows someone who has.

The characteristics of victims are consistent with the ABS, and for this study are:

  • Men (14%) and women (11%) are equally likely to be the victim.
  • Victimisation rates are lower for people aged under 25 (2%) and over 65 (9%).
  • Victimisation rates increased with household income (7% of those living in households earning less than $25,000 versus 15% of those living in households earning more than $100,000).
  • Chart 20. Proportion of Australians who have been or know someone who has been the victim of ID fraud and theft

Q38 Have you (or someone you personally know) ever been the victim of identity fraud or theft?

Australians are generally becoming more concerned about identity theft or fraud. In total, over two thirds of Australians expressed concern about the possibility of becoming the victim of ID theft and fraud in the next year (69%) a significant change compared with 2007 (60%).

Another significant change is the level of concern - a quarter of people interviewed in 2013 said they were "very concerned" (25%) compared with one in six (17%) in 2007. As was the case in 2007, the people who are least likely to be the victims of ID fraud and theft are those most concerned about the possibility of it happening to them.

A quarter of people aged under 35 know a victim (25%), but a much lower percentage has been the victim themselves. Nonetheless, younger Australians are the least likely to think that they may become the victim of ID theft and fraud in the next 12 months.

Australians living in Western Australian were most likely to have been a victim of identity theft (18%) or know someone who was (40%). This is similar to 2007 where one in seven (14%) WA residents had been a victim.

 Credit reporting

The Privacy Act provides safeguards for individuals in relation to consumer credit reporting. In particular, Part IIIA governs the handling of credit reports and other credit worthiness information about individuals by credit reporting agencies (CRAs), credit providers and a limited number of other recipients.

The Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Act 2012 contains significant changes to the current credit reporting regime. While the bulk of the changes have not yet come into effect, the credit reforms came into effect from the passing of the Act. This means that from December 2012, information relating to individuals' repayment histories will become part of the new more comprehensive reporting structure.

Given that the provisions are yet to come into effect, it was considered timely to ask Australians to comment on their understanding of the law, so that changes in attitudes and understanding may be measured in future.

As this was the first time these questions have been asked in this study, and to ensure that respondents understood the line of questioning, they were told:

I'd like to ask you a few questions now about credit ratings and information that organisations use to work these out. Most people who have rented a house, paid bills for utilities or borrowed money have a credit rating. The information needed to build this rating is available in a credit report.

People were read three statements about how credit reports might work. A quarter ofAustralians (26%) selected that everyone is able to see credit information held about them and they are able to get this from the organisation free of charge. This view was widely held amongst Australians of all types, although a higher proportion of people called on their mobile phone agreed with this option (34%) as well as males (29%).

The majority opted for the statement everyone is able to see credit information held about them but they may have to pay a fee to the organisation that holds the information. Nearly half of the community chose this (48%) and working Australians, especially those living in high income households were the most likely to choose it (57% of those living in households earning more than $75,000).

The option that no-one can get access to credit information whether they're prepared to pay for it or not  was chosen by one in six Australians (17%), rising at both ends of the age spectrum to over one in five younger Australians (22% of 18-24-year-olds) and a quarter of older Australians (aged 65+) (26%).

One in ten Australians were unable to respond (9%). Women (13%) and older Australians (17% of over 65 year olds) were the least likely to choose one of the three options.

The oldest (92% of those aged over 65 years) and youngest adult Australians (96% of those aged between 18 and 24 years) were the least likely to have tried to get access to their credit reports. Overall, one in six Australians had tried to access their credit report (17%) and subsequent questioning asked these people to describe their experiences. The group most likely to have accessed their report were aged 25-55 with around a quarter of people in this age range having accessed one.

Not surprisingly, given this age range, working Australians (20%) were more likely to have gained access than non-working Australians (13%). Otherwise people came from all walks of life. One characteristic of this group is that they were much more likely than those who had not accessed their credit report to have:

  • refused to give information to public companies because of concerns over the use of their information (30% versus 23% overall)
  • had problems with personal information handling (49% versus 33% overall)
  • read an online privacy policy (55% versus 44% overall)
  • been the victim of ID fraud or theft (21% versus 13% overall).

The one in six (17%) Australians who had accessed their credit report experienced the following:

  • Just over four in ten (43%) were charged for access to their data (7% of the population)
  • Seven in ten (70%) found the information on the report to be correct
  • Of the three in ten (30%) who found it to be incorrect:
    • Nearly six in ten (57%) were able to have the information corrected
    • Just over half (55%) made a complaint about the fact that the information was incorrect. Of these, the majority made that complaint to the organisation involved (41%), with others complaining to a credit report organisation (25%), the financial institution (19%), the Ombudsman (12%) or a government department (3%).

 

5.0 Appendix 1: Questionnaire

THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT OFFICE OF AUSTRALIAN INFORMATION COMMISSIONER COMMUNITY ATTITUDES TO PRIVACY SURVEY 2013

FINAL QUESTIONNAIRE

13 June 2013

Back to Table of Contents

  COMMUNITY ATTITUDES TO PRIVACY SURVEY 2013

 

Good morning/afternoon/evening. My name's . from Wallis market and social research in Melbourne. We're doing a confidential study on privacy for the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (if necessary - the privacy regulator) about the protection and use of people's personal information by government and businesses. It'll take about 25 minutes. Is now convenient?

TELL RESPONDENT SAMPLE DETAILS, DATA STORAGE DETAILS, AMSRS SURVEYLINK NUMBER, STRESS WALLIS IS AMSRO MEMBER AND STUDY IS IN KEEPING WITH NPPS AND WALLIS 1800 NUMBER AS REQUIRED

IF NOT AVAILABLE MAKE APPOINTMENT

S1 

To make sure that we speak with a wide range of people from the community can I ask you which one of the following broad age groups you belong to (READ OUT)?

  • 18 to 24 … 1 CHECK QUOTAS
  • 25 to 34 … 2 CHECK QUOTAS
  • 35 to 54 … 3 CHECK QUOTAS
  • 55 to 64 … 4 CHECK QUOTAS
  • Over 65 … 5 CHECK QUOTAS
  • Refused (DO NOT READ OUT) … 6 TERMINATE
  • Under 18 (DO NOT READ OUT) … 7 TERMINATE

S2

RECORD GENDER

S3

What is your postcode (Check location quotas)

MONITORING

This call will be recorded and may be monitored for quality control purposes. Please could you tell me if you do NOT want this to happen?

DO NOT MONITOR … 1

OK to monitor … 2

GENERAL ATTITUDES TOWARDS COLLECTION AND USE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION

In Australia, privacy law relates to the protection of an individual's 'personal information'. This is any information about you that identifies you or could reasonably be used to identify you. For example, this includes things like:

  • your name or address
  • financial details
  • photos
  • your opinions and beliefs
  • membership of groups and affiliations
  • racial or ethnic origin
  • health information (including genetic information)
  • sexual preferences
  • criminal record.

Note: #OPC before the question number indicates that the question was asked in 2007

 

Q1

I'd like to start by asking you what you think are the biggest privacy risks that face people today? (DO NOT READ)

MULTI

  • Online services/social media sites … 1
  • Workplace privacy … 2
  • ID scanning … 3
  • ID theft/fraud … 4
  • Data security/data breaches … 5
  • Credit reporting … 6
  • Smart phones/apps … 7
  • Surveillance … 8
  • Sending information overseas … 9
  • Other (specify) … 10
  • Don't know … 99
 

#OPCQ2.

Now I'd like you to think about providing your personal information to any business, organisation or government agency, IN GENERAL, what types of information are you reluctant to provide? (DO NOT READ) (MULTI)

  • Name … 1
  • Address … 2
  • Email address … 3
  • Phone number … 4
  • Financial details … 5
  • Marital status … 6
  • Date of birth … 7
  • Medical information … 8
  • Genetic information … 9
  • Religion … 10
  • How many people/men/women in the household … 11
  • Other (specify) … 12
  • Don't know … 99

IF NONE/DK GO TO Q6, IF SINGLE RESPONSE GO TO Q4, IF MULTI RESPONSE CONTINUE

 

#OPCQ3.

And which ONE of these [list answers given for Q2] do you feel MOST RELUCTANT to provide?

  • Name … 1
  • Address … 2
  • Email address … 3
  • Phone number … 4
  • Financial details … 5
  • Marital status … 6
  • Date of birth … 7
  • Medical information … 8
  • Genetic information … 9
  • Religion … 10
  • How many people/men/women in the household … 11
  • Other (specify) … 12
  • Don't know … 11
 

#OPCQ4.

What is your MAIN reason for not wanting to provide [answer from Q3]? (DO NOT READ)

  • May lead to financial loss/people
    might access bank account … 1
  • It's none of their business/privacy … 2
  • Discrimination … 3
  • I do not want to be identified … 4
  • I do not want people knowing
    where I live or how to contact me … 5
  • The information may be misused/information
    might be passed on without my knowledge … 6
  • Don't want junk mail/unsolicited mail/SPAM … 7
  • I don't want to be bothered/hassled/hounded
    by phone or door to door … 8
  • For safety/security/ protection from crime … 9
  • Unnecessary/irrelevant to their business or cause … 10
  • Other (specify) … 11
  • Don't know … 99

Now I'd like you to think about laws that relate to your privacy and personal information.

 

#OPCQ6.

Were you aware that there are Federal PRIVACY LAWS before this interview?

  • Yes … 1
  • No … 2
  • Don't know … 99

TRANSFER OF PERSONALISED INFORMATION

Many organisations handle personal information.

 

#OPCQ8.

Thinking now about trustworthiness. How trustworthy or untrustworthy would you say the following organisations are with regards to how they protect or use your personal information? (ROTATE)

(IF TRUSTWORTHY: Is that very trustworthy or somewhat trustworthy?

IF UNTRUSTWORTHY: Is that very untrustworthy or somewhat untrustworthy?)

 

 

Very Trust

S'what Trust

Neither

S'what UnT

Very UnT

Don't know

Financial institutions

1

2

3

4

5

99

Real Estate Agents

1

2

3

4

5

99

Insurance Companies

1

2

3

4

5

99

Charities

1

2

3

4

5

99

Government Departments

1

2

3

4

5

99

Health service providers including doctors, hospitals and pharmacists

1

2

3

4

5

99

Market and social research organisations

1

2

3

4

5

99

Retailers

1

2

3

4

5

99

eCommerce industry, (including businesses selling over the internet)

1

2

3

4

5

99

Social media industry

1

2

3

4

5

99

Organisations that are provided with personal information to collect debts

1

2

3

4

5

99

Technology companies (eg software companies and online services such as email)

1

2

3

4

5

99

 

*[Rotate Q9-11]

#OPCQ9.

GENERALLY, how likely or unlikely would you be to provide your personal information to an organisation if it meant you would receive discounted purchases?

(Is that very or somewhat?)

  • Very likely … 1
  • Somewhat likely … 2
  • Neither likely nor unlikely … 3
  • Somewhat unlikely … 4
  • Very Unlikely … 5
  • Don't know … 99
 

#OPCQ10.

How about if it meant you would have a chance to win a prize?

(Is that very or somewhat)

  • Very likely … 1
  • Somewhat likely … 2
  • Neither likely nor unlikely … 3
  • Somewhat unlikely … 4
  • Very Unlikely … 5
  • Don't know … 99
 

Q11.

And how likely or unlikely would you be to provide your personal information to an organisation if it meant you would receive better service, for example, being able to use more functions on a website, or receive improved customer service?

(Is that very or somewhat)

  • Very likely … 1
  • Somewhat likely … 2
  • Neither likely nor unlikely … 3
  • Somewhat unlikely … 4
  • Very Unlikely … 5
  • Don't know … 99
 

#OPCQ12.

Thinking now about the way that your personal information is handled by private or public sector organisations, which of the following instances would you regard to be a misuse of your personal information? (ROTATE)

 

 

Yes

No

Don't know

An organisation that you haven't dealt with gets hold of your personal information

1

2

99

An organisation monitors your activities on the Internet, recording information on the sites you visit without your knowledge

1

2

99

You supply your information to an organisation for a specific purpose and they use it for another purpose.

1

2

99

An organisation asks you for personal information that doesn't seem relevant to the purpose of the transaction.

1

2

99

An organisation reveals a customer's information to other customers

1

2

99

An organisation sends customer data to an overseas processing centre

1

2

99

 

#OPCQ13.

How concerned are you about Australian organisations sending their customers' personal information overseas? Is that very or somewhat?

  • Very concerned … 1
  • Somewhat concerned … 2
  • Not concerned … 3
  • Don't know … 99
 

Q14.

I'd like you to think about the way that your personal information is handled by private sector organisations and government agencies. Please tell me if you agree or disagree with the following statements. (ROTATE)

(Is that strongly or somewhat.?)

 

 

Strongly agree

Some
what agree

Neither

Some
what disagree

Strongly disagree

Don't know

It's extremely important that private sector organisations tell me how they protect and handle my personal information

1

2

3

4

5

99

If a government agency loses my personal information they should tell me

1

2

2

2

5

99

If a business loses my personal information they should tell me

1

2

3

4

5

99

It's extremely important that government agencies tell me how they protect and handle my personal information

1

2

3

4

5

99

 

#OPCQ33.

Thinking about direct marketing. Which of the following statements BEST DESCRIBES how you GENERALLY feel when organisations that you have NEVER DEALT WITH BEFORE send you unsolicited marketing information? Would you say you feel . (READ OUT)

  • Annoyed … 1
  • Concerned about where they obtained it … 2
  • It doesn't bother you … 3
  • It's a bit annoying but it's harmless … 4
  • You don't mind getting it at all … 5
  • Or something else (specify) … 6
  • Don't know (DO NOT READ) … 99

I'd like you to think now of steps you've taken to protect your personal information.

 

Q21.

I'm going to read you a list of things you might have done. In order to protect your personal information how often, if ever, do you. (READ OUT)? (ROTATE)

Would that be always, often, sometimes, rarely or never?

 

 

Always

Often

Some
times

Rarely

Never

Don't know

Shred documents

1

2

3

4

5

99

Check that a website is secure before providing personal information (eg check for security encryption)

1

2

3

4

5

99

Ask public or private sector organisations why they need your information

1

2

3

4

5

99

Read privacy policies and notifications before providing personal information

1

2

3

4

5

99

Use false name when giving personal information

1

2

3

4

5

99

Provide false personal details

1

2

3

4

5

99

Refuse to provide personal information

1

2

3

4

5

99

Adjust privacy settings on a social networking website

1

2

3

4

5

99

Clear your browsing and search history

1

2

3

4

5

99

Choose not to use an app (application) on a mobile device because of concerns over handling your personal information

1

2

3

4

5

99

*[rotate Q18 and Q19]

 

#OPCQ18.

Have you ever decided NOT TO DEAL with a government agency or public sector organisation because of concerns over the protection or use of your personal information?

  • Yes … 1
  • No … 2
  • Don't know … 99
 

#OPCQ19.

And have you ever decided NOT TO DEAL with a private sector organisation because of concerns over the protection or use of your personal information?

  • Yes … 1
  • No … 2
  • Don't know … 99

DEALING WITH COMPLAINTS AND PROBLEMS

Now I'd like you to think about your own experiences with personal information.

 

Q15.

Have you experienced a problem with how your personal information was handled in the past 12 months?

  • Yes … 1
  • No … 2
  • Don't know … 99
 

#OPCQ17.

If you wanted to report misuse of your personal information to someone, who would you be MOST likely to contact?

MULTI

  • Police … 1
  • Ombudsman … 2
  • The organisation that was involved … 3
  • The Privacy Commissioner (Federal or State) … 4
  • Consumer Affairs (in your state) … 5
  • Federal/Local/State MP … 6
  • Other Government department … 7
  • Local Council … 8
  • Lawyers/solicitors … 9
  • Department of Fair Trading … 10
  • The media e.g. TV/ radio/ newspapers … 11
  • Seek advice from a friend or relative … 12
  • Other (specify … 13
  • Don't know … 99

Information about your health is considered sensitive under the Privacy Act.

 

#OPCQ22.

Which of the following four options best describes when you think it would be OK for your doctor to share your health information with other health professionals (including pharmacists, specialists, pathologists or nurses), .(READ OUT)? (SINGLE RESPONSE)

  • For anything to do with my health care … 1
  • Only for purposes that are related to the
    specific condition being treated … 2
  • Only for serious or life threatening conditions … 3
  • For no purpose, they should always ask for my consent … 4
  • Don't know … 99
 

#OPCQ23.

To what extent do you agree or disagree that your doctor should be able to discuss your personal medical details with other health professionals - in a way that identifies you - WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT if they believe this would assist your treatment? Is that strongly or somewhat?

  • Strongly agree … 1
  • Somewhat agree … 2
  • Neither agree nor disagree … 3
  • Somewhat disagree … 4
  • Strongly disagree … 5
  • Don't know … 99
 

#OPCQ34.

Now thinking about the workplace, how important is it to you that an employer has a privacy policy that covers when they will read employee emails, randomly drug test employees, use surveillance equipment to monitor employees, monitor telephone conversations and monitor GPS in work vehicles. Is it.

  • Very important … 1
  • Quite important … 2
  • Not very important … 3
  • Not at all important … 4
  • Don't know (DO NOT READ) … 99
 

Q35.

Now thinking about random drug and alcohol tests in the workplace, Do you think it is acceptable or unacceptable for employers to carry out these tests for employees who. (READ OUT) ( RANDOM)

Is that completely acceptable, acceptable or unacceptable

  • Operate heavy machinery … 1
  • Operate a vehicle … 2
  • Deal directly with customers … 3
  • Deal directly with children and young people … 4
  • Handle dangerous substances … 5

INTERNET AND SMARTPHONES

 

Q24.

Thinking now about using the internet. What proportion of websites do you think collect information about the people who visit them? Would you say it is (READ OUT)

  • All … 1
  • Most … 2
  • Some … 3
  • Few … 4
  • None … 5
  • Don't use the internet and can't estimate … 6
  • Use the internet but have no idea … 7
  • Refused … 99
 

Q24a.

Now thinking about your Smartphone. What proportion of smart phone apps collect information about the people who use them? Do you think it is.(READ OUT)

  • All … 1
  • Most … 2
  • Some … 3
  • Few … 4
  • None … 5
  • Don't have a smartphone and can't estimate … 6
  • Have a smartphone but have no idea … 7
  • Refused … 99
 

Q25.

As you may be aware, search engines and social networking sites track your internet use in order to do things like target advertising at you. How comfortable are you with (READ OUT) (ROTATE).?

Is that comfortable or uncomfortable - very of somewhat?

 

 

Very

c

Some-what c

Neither

Some-what uc

Very uc

Don't know

Search engines and social networking sites targeting advertising at you based on what you have said and done online

1

2

3

4

5

99

Search engines and social networking sites keeping databases of information on what you have said and done online

1

2

3

4

5

99

 

Q26.

Have you ever put any information on a social networking site that you've later regretted sharing with others?

  • Yes … 1
  • No … 2
  • Have never posted information on a social networking site … 3
  • Don't know … 99
 

Q27.

Do you think that social networking is .(ROTATE 1 or 2)

  • Mainly a private activity, where users share
    information with their friends OR … 1
  • Mainly a public activity, where users publish
    information which can be seen by many people … 2
  • Don't know (DO NOT READ) … 99
 

#OPCQ28.

Thinking now about providing your personal details online. Are you more or less concerned about providing your personal details electronically or online compared to in a hard copy/paper based format?

  • More … 1
  • Less … 2
  • Same … 3
  • Don't know … 99
 

#OPCQ29.

Are you more or less concerned about the privacy of your personal information while using the internet than you were five years ago?

  • More … 1
  • Less … 2
  • Same … 3
  • Don't know … 99
 

#OPCQ30.

Do you normally read the privacy policy attached to any internet site?

  • Yes … 1
  • No … 2
  • Don't know … 99

*[If yes, go to Q31]

 

#OPCQ31.

What impact, if any, did seeing or reading these privacy policies have upon your attitude towards the site? (DO NOT READ) (MULTI)

  • It's a good idea/ I approve of the privacy policy
    they are doing the right thing/ prefer to see on
    sites/ respect sites for having it … 1
  • Feel more confident/ comfortable/ secure/
    about using site … 2
  • Appear more honest/ trustworthy/ responsible/
    legitimate … 3
  • Helps me decide whether to use the site or not … 4
  • Still apprehensive about sites that have them/
    Don't trust them/ not convinced … 5
  • Made me more cautious/ aware when using
    the internet generally … 6
  • Too long/ complicated to read … 7
  • Other (specify) … 8
  • Don't know … 99

[If no to Q 30, ask Q32]

 

#OPCQ31.

Why don't you read website policies? (DO NOT READ)

  • Too long … 1
  • Hard to find … 2
  • Too complex … 3
  • Agencies and organisations don't comply with them … 4
  • No need if I trust the organisation … 5
  • Other (specify) … 6

PERSONAL ID, THEFT AND FRAUD

I'm going to ask you a series of questions now about how you feel about products or activities that identify you personally, and the possibility of identify fraud and theft.

 

#OPCQ36.

In which of the following situations, if any, do you think it is acceptable that a COPY or SCAN is made of your identification documents (such as a drivers' license or passport). (MULTI) (ROTATE)

 

 

Acceptable

Not acceptable

Don't know

On entry to licensed premises (e.g. Pub/Club/Hotel)

1

2

99

To obtain a credit card

1

2

99

To purchase general goods (e.g. clothing and food)

1

2

99

To purchase goods for which you need to be over 18

1

2

99

To purchase cigarettes

1

2

99

 

Q37.

I'd like you to think about the collection and use of your biometric information, which includes fingerprints, pictures of your face or scans of your eyes in a number of different situations?

How concerned are you about using biometric information for you to. (ROTATE) Is that very concerned, or somewhat concerned?

 

 

Very concerned

Somewhat concerned

Not concerned

Don't know

(DNR)

Get on a flight

1

2

3

4

Do your day to day banking

1

2

3

4

Go into a licensed pub, club, bar or hotel

1

2

3

4

Get into your place of work or study

1

2

3

4

 

#OPCQ38.

Have you (or someone you personally know) ever been the victim of identity fraud or theft?

  • Yes - it happened to me … 1
  • Yes it happened to someone I personally know … 2
  • No … 3
  • Don't know … 99
 

#OPCQ39.

How concerned are you that you may become a victim of identity fraud or theft in the next 12 months?

Is that very or somewhat?

  • Very concerned … 1
  • Somewhat concerned … 2
  • Not concerned … 3
  • Don't know … 99

FINANACIAL CREDIT INFORMATION (CREDIT REPORTING)

I'd like to ask you a few questions now about credit ratings and information that organisations use to work these out. Most people who have rented a house, paid bills for utilities or borrowed money have a credit rating. The information needed to build this rating is available in a credit report. 

 

Q40.

I'm going to read you several statements about credit reports and I'd like you to tell me which is the closest to your understanding of how they work. Do you think that . (READ OUT) (ROTATE)

Everyone is able to see credit information held about them, but they may have to pay a fee to the organisation that holds the information … 1

Everyone is able to see credit information held about them and they are able to get this from the organisation free of charge … 2

No-one can get access to credit information whether they're prepared to pay for it or not … 3

Don't know (DO NOT READ) … 99

 

Q41.

Firstly, have you ever tried to get access to information about your credit rating, this is called your credit report?

Yes … 1

No … 2 GO TO D1

Don't know … 99 GO TO D1

IF YES AT Q41 ASK Q41a

 

Q41a.

Were you charged for a copy of your credit report?

Yes … 1

No … 2

Don't know … 99

IF YES AT Q41 ASK Q41b

 

Q41b.

Was information on that credit report correct?

  • Yes … 1
  • No … 2
  • Don't know … 99

IF NO AT Q41b ASK Q41c

 

Q41c.

Were you able to have the information changed to make it correct?

  • Yes … 1
  • No … 2
  • Don't know … 99

IF NO AT Q41b ASK Q43

 

Q43.

Have you made a complaint about the fact that there was wrong information on your credit report?

  • Yes … 1
  • No … 2 GO TO D1
  • Don't know … 99 GO TO D1

IF YES AT Q43 ASK Q44

 

Q44.

Who did you make this to?

OPEN

ASK ALL

DEMOGRAPHICS

Thank you. Finally, I just have a few questions about you which we will use simply for the purposes of analysis.

D1 What is the highest level of education you have reached?

  • Primary school. 1
  • Intermediate (year 10). 2
  • VCE/HSC (year 12). 3
  • Undergraduate diploma/TAFE/Trade certs . 4
  • Bachelor's Degree . 5
  • Postgraduate qualification. 6
  • CAN'T SAY. 7

D2. Are you now in paid employment?

IF YES, ASK: Is that FULL-time for 35 hours or more a week, or part-time?

IF NO, ASK: Are you retired or a student?

  • Yes, Full-time. 1
  • Yes, part time. 2
  • No, retired. 3
  • No, student. 4
  • Other non-worker. 5
  • Refused. 6

ASK IF WORKING FULL/PART TIME

D3 Are you employed by someone else or are you an employer?

  • Employee. 1
  • Employer. 2
  • Self-employed/SOHO. 3
  • Both. 4
  • Can't say. 5

D4. What is your (last) occupation?

(OPEN - code to ANZSCO standard)

D5. Which describes your household income before tax, best? (An estimate will do)

  • Less than $25,000. 1
  • $25-75,000. 2
  • $75 - 100,000. 3
  • Over $100,000. 4
  • Refused (do not read). 5

Closing Statements - All

Thank you very much for your time. Your views count and on behalf of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and Wallis social and market research, I'm very glad you made them known. In case you missed it, my name is . from Wallis. The information you have provided cannot be linked to you personally in any way. The results of this survey will be published later this year. They will be published on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner's website at http://www.oaic.gov.au/

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If you have any queries about this study you can call the Australian Market and Social Research Society's free survey line on 1300 364 832.


 

[1] Lange, Ryan. and Lampe, Cliff. "Feeding the Privacy Debate: An Examination of Facebook" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 22, 2008: p.20

[2] Beaumont, Claudine (February 23, 2010). "Twitter Users Send 50 Million Tweets Per Day - Almost 600 Tweets Are Sent Every Second Through the Microblogging Site, According to Its Own Metrics". The Daily Telegraph (London).

[3]https://blog.twitter.com/2011/numbers

[4] See: http://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy/privacy-act/the-privacy-act

[5] Lange, Ryan. and Lampe, Cliff. "Feeding the Privacy Debate: An Examination of Facebook" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, TBA, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 22, 2008: p.20

[6]http://www.examiner.com/article/linkedin-steps-up-security-with-new-safety-protocols

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Changes to privacy law from 12 March

Content found in this section or on this page may not reflect the current law. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner is updating the information found in this section

> Read more: Privacy law reform

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