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Privacy Research 'Uncovered'

6 August 2001 at 1:08 pm
Staff Reporter
The most comprehensive privacy research into the attitudes of individuals in Australia has come up with a resounding response – “It’s none of their business”....

Staff Reporter | 6 August 2001 at 1:08 pm


Privacy Research 'Uncovered'
6 August 2001 at 1:08 pm

The most comprehensive privacy research into the attitudes of individuals in Australia has come up with a resounding response – “It’s none of their business”. That was the answer to why participants didn’t want to provide organisations with different types of personal information according to Federal Privacy Commissioner, Malcolm Crompton.

The Commissioner has just released the results of three major research projects into Australians’ understanding, expectation and behaviour and attitude towards privacy from the community, business and government perspective.

In the Privacy and Business report, Malcolm Crompton pointed out that in the Not for Profit sector there is a greater move towards relationship marketing to enhance donor relationships and sustain long term giving. This trend can involve the collection of a large volume of detailed personal information.

The Commissioner says many organisations pursuing these strategies will be covered under the new Act and may need to adjust the way they handle personal information in order to comply.

He says while many businesses generally demonstrate a positive attitude to their impeding responsibilities, this is also matched by a low level of understanding just what those responsibilities are.

Crompton warned that the ramifications of this are potentially serious.

He described the privacy issue as being akin to the environmental movement; latent but awakening.

He says the research shows that Australians regard privacy as a closely held and highly personal value, but they are willing to strike a balance.

He says in the right circumstances, 43% of those surveyed said they would be willing to provide personal details in return for more efficient and personalised services.

81% agreed that it was appropriate for the government to assign unique identifiers to better track health services but 60% qualified this by saying that inclusion in a national database should be voluntary.

The research found that individuals look for signals that an organisation will manage their personal information well. 59% said they would trust an organisation more if that organisation gave them control over how their information was to be used. 55% said that organisations with privacy policies would be more likely to gain their trust.

An overwhelming majority of businesses and organisations surveyed (95%) said they considered the privacy of customers’ personal information to be very important and gave the main reasons as ethical/moral grounds, compliance with company policy as well as reputation and credibility.

In the Privacy and the Community report, nine out of ten people surveyed wanted businesses to seek permission before using their personal information for marketing. And the research found that those aged between 40 and 49 were more pro-active in protecting their personal information.

As many as 47% of those surveyed admitted that they would give incomplete information if they didn’t feel in control of the privacy situation, and 40% said they would falsify information if they didn’t feel in control of the information process.

Interestingly the research found that Internet retailers were perceived as the least trustworthy organisations regarding the protection and use of personal information, scoring 1.98 on a scale of 5. When asked about attitudes towards tracking users over the Internet without their knowledge, over 90% thought this was an invasion of privacy.

Health service providers were perceived as the most trustworthy type of organisations scoring 4.16 out of 5, followed by financial organisations, government agencies, charities and retailers.

The Privacy Commissioner says the information will be used to prepare education and information resources about the new privacy Act when in comes into effect in December.

For a full copy of the three reports, Privacy and the Community, Privacy and Government, and Privacy and Business, e-mail your request to us here at We have the reports in a Zipped Word format. Each report is between 30-60 pages long.

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