A Consumer Policy Research Centre survey of 1,000 consumers conducted from March – April this year confirmed Australians expect more from industry and government when it comes to protecting them from risks posed by the collection, sharing and use of their personal information.

This report refreshes CPRC research findings from 2018 – and also expands the research scope to cover recent developments in data technology, collection, sharing and use.

Key findings from the 2020 survey include:

High use of, and reliance upon, data-driven products and services

  • 70% of Australians use Google products or services daily, while 58% use Facebook daily.
  • 28% of 2020 survey respondents visited online shopping websites at least once a week, up from 21% in 2018.
  • Location apps and GPS devices were by far the most commonly used internet-connected devices (69% of consumers) – while smart assistants (32%) and exercise health trackers (24%) were also commonly used.

Most Australian consumers do not feel comfortable about how their personal information is handled

  • 94% of Australian consumers are uncomfortable with how their personal information is collected and shared online.
  • 88% of Australian consumers do not have a clear understanding of how their personal information is being collected and shared.
  • 85% of consumers consider it is unfair for companies to share personal information they’ve provided with other companies – while 90% think it is unfair for this information to be sold to other companies.
  • A large majority of consumers also find it unfair when companies collect more information than is necessary to deliver the product or service they are receiving (88%).
  • Consumers have high concerns about online safety issues, with concern highest regarding data breaches or hacks (94%), personal data being used for fraud or scams (93%) and children’s data being misused (92%).

Privacy Policies do not aid informed choices and do not provide consumers with genuine choice or control

  • In 2020, 94% of Australian consumers reported not reading all of the privacy policies or T&Cs that applied to them in the past 12 months
  • Of consumers who had read privacy policies, 69% reported accepting terms even though they weren’t comfortable with them – the main reason for doing so was it was the only way to access the product or service (75%)
  • Consumer engagement with Privacy Policies and T&Cs has not improved between 2018 and 2020. In both years one third (33%) of consumers told us they never read these documents, and 35% read them only for a few products/services

Australian consumers believe that government has an important responsibility to ensure that consumers are protected

  • 94% of consumers expected government to protect them against the collection and sharing of their personal information (67% high responsibility, 27% moderate responsibility);
  • 93% of consumers expected government to improve their understanding of how personal information may be collected and shared (67% high responsibility, 26% moderate responsibility);
  • 94% of consumers expected government to protect them from having their information being used in a way that makes them worse off (79% high responsibility, 15% moderate responsibility)

Urgent reforms to laws are required to protect consumers’ privacy and ensure their data is used safely and fairly

  • Consumer engagement with Privacy Policies and T&Cs has not improved in the past two years. At the same time, consumer discomfort and opposition regarding the data practices that Privacy Policies and T&Cs can permit has grown.
  • There is now a chasm between how consumers expect to be treated, and how they are currently treated, in digital marketplaces.
  • COVID-19 has increased the urgent need for reforms to Australia’s consumer protections framework, so consumers aren’t relying on analogue safeguards in an increasingly digital world.
  • Reforms to consumer protections – such as unfair trading practice and contract term prohibitions, and a general safety provision, being added to Australian Consumer Law – as well as reforms to the Privacy Act, need to be progressed without delay. This will ensure Australian consumers are properly protected, and help to drive greater trust and confidence in digital marketplaces.

Download the full research report below. CPRC has submitted this research report to the current review of Australia’s Privacy Act. A copy of our full submission can also be downloaded below.

CPRC 2020 Data and Technology Consumer Survey - Full Research Report

CPRC Submission - Privacy Act Review Issues Paper

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