In 2016, the Government changed its internet privacy laws to give companies more leeway to collect personal data.
But new research from University of Queensland’s Privacy Science Research Unit suggests it may be too late for many Australians to avoid the worst of this.
It says the Government’s new data retention laws are not the best approach for consumers, but that companies have more control over data they collect and it’s important to educate consumers about the options available.
“Our research suggests that people are more concerned about the privacy of their online activity, and are more likely to ask for more information,” Dr Sarah Widdowson, lead researcher from the Privacy Science Unit at the University of Brisbane, said.
Ms Widdowsons research, which will be presented at the Privacy and Civil Liberties Commission of Queensland in March, found that online activity is “increasingly dominated by personal data and personal information that is linked to identity and information about the user”.
“This is a worrying trend for consumers who have grown increasingly concerned about privacy and online privacy, given that online identity and identity data is increasingly being linked to financial transactions,” she said.
“If you use the internet to access services, or are a user of social media, this information is more likely than not to be linked to your online identity.”‘
Not the answer’ Ms Widdosons research also found that Australians are increasingly concerned with privacy and the extent of personal data collected about them.
The study, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, found about six in 10 people were concerned about online privacy in 2017, with almost one in three Australians being “very concerned” about it.
This level of concern was even higher for people aged between 15 and 64.
According to the study, the majority of respondents thought personal data is shared too broadly across the internet.
While the number of people concerned about this increased from two in 10 in 2015 to three in 10, it’s still relatively low compared to other social media platforms, such as Facebook.
Privacy concerns are increasing “because of the growing prominence of personal information in digital networks such as mobile phone networks and online platforms”, the study said.
Privacy Commissioner Scott Morrison said Australians have the right to know how their personal data was used and who was sharing it.
“We must be careful not to allow ourselves to be complacent with the digital revolution and not to let our privacy be sacrificed in the process,” he said.
A spokesman for the Federal Information Commissioner’s Office (FICO) said consumers could use an online privacy tool to learn more about their personal information.