Unwittingly sharing your personal details online? The results can be pretty creepy

Gary Gill, Partner in Charge, Forensic
Gary Gill, Partner in Charge, Forensic

Filled in an online form lately? Bought a book or signed up to a content streaming service? Shared a selfie. Well you have just added more information to your unseen online data profile.

For many, privacy is something of an afterthought, easily given to companies who collect all kinds of personal information so you can view the photos or video stories shared by friends on social media. But the data exchanged by companies on clients and customers doesn’t just relate to purchase orders or browsing history but also the age, sex, preferences and a whole raft of confidential information you wouldn’t want the world to know.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre recently published that in the last financial year, 14,804 cyber security incidents were responded to by the Government contact point, CERT Australia.

Data breaches, with the accompanying release of personal data, are increasing. The most recently reported loss of medical records from the Australian Blood Bank highlights the potential vulnerability of the personal data we supply to an increasingly large number of organisations. To their credit, the Red Cross reported the loss immediately.

In Australia, individuals have no ownership rights of their personal data collected by organisations. It is a commodity to many companies to be bought and sold. But the draft recommendations, released yesterday by the Productivity Commission recommend a key policy change to give individuals the right to access their own data and direct where it can be sent, sold or used. It will also be easier to opt out of data collection all together.

In a new report by KPMG International. Creepy or cool? Staying on the right side of the consumer line55 percent of consumers said they had decided against buying something online due to privacy concerns.

The report, also found that less than 10 percent of consumers believe they have control over the way organisations handle and use their personal data, with respondents in most countries saying that privacy control is more important than the potential convenience gained from sharing personal data.

Consumers are rightly uncomfortable and although the video clip shared on social media or the DVD bought online is probably cool – the invidious data collection, to most consumers, is definitely creepy.

To help Australian citizens gain some control, the federal government has introduced an amendment to the Privacy Act 1988 requiring all federal agencies and any business with a turnover of $3 million to follow. The bill recommends these organisations investigate and take action if there was any unauthorised access or disclosure of customer and client information even if it is only a suspected breach. If they have been exposed and private information is compromised, these entities must inform those affected. Failing to do so may result in fines up to $1.8 million imposed by the Privacy Commissioner.

What does this mean for the future? It’s clear that the public will still flock to websites and apps that use the freemium business model. However, with changes in the law and a shift in awareness of the threat posed to their privacy, businesses will need to shift their disclosure policies to better deal with these concerns. Our respondents have expressed they will still hand over their personal data while they see a clear benefit in doing so. This means companies have to be truly transparent about the benefits, but also who they share their customers’ data with and why they’re doing it.

Perhaps an added benefit will be the death of lengthy legalistic policies that are poorly understood by the broader public and the introduction of a brave new world of transparency.

Read the full report, but for just a taste here are the five things Australians find most creepy.

  • Selling of personal data to third parties (82 percent of global respondents agreed)
  • Apps that access personal data
  • Personalised billboards based on their previous purchase behaviour
  • Personalised adverts based on their personal emails
  • Companies contacting them based on their location and previous use

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