The ACAPS is the longest-standing and most in-depth study of how Australian attitudes to privacy have evolved, having been conducted in various forms since 1990. With the extension of the Privacy Act 1988 to cover the private sector, the survey was broadened to its current scope in 2001.
In the sixteen years since then, the technological, social and consumer landscape in which our personal information is used has changed dramatically. For example, in 2001 Facebook did not exist, nor did the iPhone, and biometric identity systems like touch ID were the stuff of spy fantasy.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that the latest survey shows that Australians are increasingly concerned about the privacy risks that have evolved in tandem with new technology and new ways of connecting socially.
Sixty-nine per cent of Australians say they are more concerned about their online privacy than they were five years ago. And it seems that Australians continue to experience the privacy risks that may travel with new technology; with around one-in-four regretting social media activity and a similar percentage knowing a victim of identity theft.
As Commissioner, the striking message in the 2017 survey is that while privacy is attracting concern from Australian consumers and communities, many of us are not converting that concern into using basic privacy protections that are already available to us.
For example, the survey shows the majority of us do not regularly read the privacy policies of websites we use; and that 43 per cent of us do not regularly adjust the privacy settings on our social media accounts. Around a quarter of us have rarely or never asked an organisation why they need our personal information — even though this is a basic privacy right. And 58 per cent of us don’t know that we can request access to the personal information a business or government agency holds about us.