NSW 2017 Community Attitudes Towards Privacy Report

The NSW Acting Privacy Commissioner, Dr Elizabeth Coombs, today released a summary report of a survey of attitudes of the NSW community towards privacy. The survey was commissioned in April 2017 to provide a broad and indicative sense of the public’s view of how privacy is regarded in developing areas such as data analytics, the seriousness with which those in authority are seen to take privacy, and what needs addressing to ensure that reforms based on data innovations have the trust of the community.

Highlights of the survey results are:

  • Nearly two thirds (63%) of survey respondents do not think, do not know or are undecided if those in authority generally, are taking privacy seriously.

  • 60% of survey respondents do not believe, or are not sure, that data collected about them can be fully de-identified in subsequent re-uses.

  • These points indicate a lack of trust and uncertainty in the community at a time when the use of and reliance upon data and de-identification of data, is significant and growing.

  • If data cannot be fully de-identified, the support of survey respondents for the use of their information for a purpose other than that for which the information was originally given, declines markedly.

  • Consent is important for people. Around 60% of respondents do not support the use of their personal data to monitor their use of goods and services.

  • The survey results suggest that younger people care about their privacy but in a different way to other age groups. Many between 18–34 years are still forming their views, whereas older citizens were more likely to have a definite view.

  • Privacy was not seen as just good for the individual, but also for society as a whole. This view was more associated with women and the older age group than those aged 18-34 years.

  • Respondents support legal remedies for breaches of privacy, reinforcing the recommendation of a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry for a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy.

Dr Coombs, Acting NSW Privacy Commissioner, said “These results clearly indicate that the community values the ability to control who may obtain their personal or health information and who may be able to identify them based upon this information. It is additionally apparent that the community has strong views as to what subsequent uses the information they provided for one purpose may be put to without their consent.

“This report alerts decision makers to the community’s expectations of due regard for the protection of their privacy balanced with any consideration of legitimate public interest factors. It’s important that the expressed concerns of the citizens of NSW are reflected in any changes of policy or administrative arrangements into the future. Addressing these concerns is necessary and an exciting challenge for all, including the community.”

For a full copy of the report, click here. 

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