Skip to main content
Skip to secondary navigation
Australian Government - Office of the Australian Information Commissioner - Home

Privacy is a priority for the Australian community

Results from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey were released today. The survey results show that Australians are becoming more concerned about privacy risks. People expect the organisations they deal with to take effective steps to safeguard their personal information.

The survey reports that 48% of Australians believe that online services, including social media, now pose the greatest privacy risk. Only 9% of survey respondents considered social media websites to be trustworthy in protecting privacy.

Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan, said the survey results confirm the growing community concern about privacy risks arising from the explosion in use of social media since this survey was last run in 2007.

‘In the last 5 years we have seen a significant change in how people communicate and interact online. People’s attitude to the importance of personal privacy protection is changing at the same time,’ said Professor McMillan.

Survey participants were asked whether certain industries were trustworthy. The three most trustworthy industries were health service providers, trusted by 90% of participants; financial institutions, trusted by 74% (up from 58% in 2007); and Government, trusted by 69%.

The survey indicates that the public expects data security protection to be similar in both the public and private sectors. A high majority of survey participants expect to be informed if their information is lost (96% for both government and the private sector). The majority of people (around 95%) also feel they should be made aware how of their information is handled on a day-to-day basis.

Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim said it was clear that the Australian public continues to insist that their personal information is handled with the highest possible standards.

‘There is a business imperative for organisations to be transparent about their personal information handling practices and to ensure that privacy is built in to systems and processes right from the beginning,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

The Community Attitudes to Privacy survey has been conducted periodically since 2001. A significant longitudinal finding is that an increased number of people make a choice not to deal with a public or private sector organisation because of a concern over how their personal information has been or may be used.

‘Just over 60% of Australians have decided to not deal with an organisation because of privacy concerns, which is an increase from just over 40% in 2007,’ said Mr Pilgrim.

The Privacy Commissioner said that if organisations take one thing away from the survey results, it should be that in the current environment of constant technological change, they cannot afford to relax when it comes to proper data security and information handling practices.

‘These results send a very clear message that people remain concerned about how their information will be handled. With a significant number of people saying that they have decided not to deal with an organisation due to privacy concerns, I suggest that business needs to listen to this and consider improving their practices,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

The survey showed that Australians are increasingly concerned about the international sharing of personal information; 79% of people feel that cross-border disclosure is a misuse of personal information, and 90% have concerns about the practice.

‘This is an interesting finding given the increasing frequency with which data is being sent off-shore. New privacy laws commencing next March will increase protection around the handling of Australian information that is transferred off-shore, and it will be interesting to see how attitudes change as a result of this,’ Mr Pilgrim said.

The research data will be de-identified and made publically available in line with the OAIC’s role in ensuring that government information is open and accessible.

‘There is certainly a wealth of information contained in this research and there is great value in opening this data up to others to see the different ways it can be utilised,’ said Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan.

For interview requests please contact:     Ms Leila Daniels     0407 663 968

Background notes to Editors

The OAIC’s 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey is a longitudinal study into public awareness of, and concern about, privacy. 

The research was sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank (Primary sponsor), Henry Davis York (Key sponsor) and McAfee (Sponsor).

The survey was conducted by Wallis Consulting Group on behalf of the OAIC, and involved 1000 people participating via landline and mobile numbers.

Detailed background information and an Executive summary are available on request.

You can access the full report at this URL:

Sponsor information

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (Primary Sponsor)

Spokesperson: Gary Blair — Executive General Manager, Commonwealth Bank of Australia

The Commonwealth Bank is Australia’s leading provider of integrated financial services including retail banking, premium banking, business banking, institutional banking, funds management, superannuation, insurance, investment and sharebroking products and services. The Group is one of the largest listed companies on the Australian Securities Exchange and its vision is to excel at securing and enhancing the financial wellbeing of people, businesses and communities.

The Commonwealth Bank is proud to be a primary sponsor of the OAIC 2013 Community Attitudes to Privacy survey. The Bank takes privacy and security very seriously, and recognises the growing importance of privacy for individuals, organisations, and for the growth of the digital economy.

Gary Blair joined the Commonwealth Bank in early 2010 to help transform the enterprise’s investment in and delivery of information security. Gary has more than twenty-five years’ experience in information technology within the banking and finance industry as well as other technologically intensive industries. 

Henry Davis York (Key Sponsor)

Spokesperson: Donna Short — Partner, Henry Davis York

Henry Davis York (HDY) is a leading Australian law firm that specialises in the financial services and government sectors. HDY's reputation is built on the commercial outcomes we help our clients achieve and the experience we create for them.

HDY is proud to be a sponsor of the OAIC Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey. Australia's privacy landscape is dramatically changing and organisations are wanting to understand and address the implications of these changes for their businesses. HDY is currently assisting its clients, including Australia's major financial institutions, to navigate through this landscape and achieve their commercial objectives.  

Donna Short, the HDY spokesperson for this event, specialises in commercial law with a focus on intellectual property, privacy, data protection and technology. Donna has been advising clients, particularly in the financial services sector on the reforms to the Privacy Act and assisting with implementing appropriate changes to documents and practices. This year Donna has presented a number of privacy seminars to large financial institutions including a leading Australian bank and has also published articles on the changes to the Privacy Act and the proposed new laws requiring data breach notification.

McAfee (Sponsor)

Spokesperson: Joel Camissar, Data Loss Protection Lead, McAfee Asia Pacific

McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), empowers businesses, the public sector, and home users to safely experience the benefits of the Internet. The company delivers proactive and proven security solutions and services for systems, networks, and mobile devices around

the world. With its Security Connected strategy, innovative approach to hardware-enhanced security, and unique Global Threat Intelligence network, McAfee is relentlessly focused on keeping its customers safe. 

Joel Camissar manages McAfee’s data protection business — the company’s fastest growing practice — across Asia Pacific. He leads a cross-functional team and works with some of the largest companies in the region to translate business requirements into technical solutions that deliver rapid time to value.

With McAfee since August 2009, Camissar has more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry covering roles such as Regional Management & Senior Business Development for global organisations in the software security market.