Another poll on privacy again finds that Australians care about their privacy and want tougher rules.

October 12, 2022 |

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports on a Resolve Political Monitor poll that finds that a clear majority of voters want tougher privacy rules.  The findings themselves are hardly new.  Wherever and whenever there have been polls on privacy people consistently express concern about the lack of privacy, the use of their personal information and the need for stronger rules. The attitude and concerns of Australians and Americans do not differ markedly.  That has not resulted in governments doing all that much to improve privacy protections.

Even if the poll does not reveal anything radically new the timing is signficant after the the Optus Data Breach.

The article provides:

Australians want stronger privacy rules to stop companies storing personal data after they use it to sign up customers, with 77 per cent of voters supporting the change after the exposure of millions of accounts in the Optus data breach.

A clear majority of Australians also back tougher fines for companies that leave their systems vulnerable to data theft, with 59 per cent in favour of penalties worth many millions of dollars.

The exclusive Resolve Political Monitor findings highlight the community support for a stricter regime to safeguard information from driver licences, passports, birth certificates and other documents often used to open accounts and stored for years by banks, retailers, phone companies, energy providers, government agencies and others.

With the federal government signalling new rules following a political fight over the blame for the Optus data theft, 68 per cent of voters believe Optus was most at fault for the breach and only 11 per cent held the government responsible, with 21 per cent unsure.

Federal authorities launched co-ordinated investigations into the Optus breach on Tuesday, with Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk saying the penalties could be $2.2 million for each contravention of privacy law.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has raised the idea of higher financial penalties under reforms to the Privacy Act to encourage companies to delete data safely rather than keep it when they no longer have a use for it in checking the identity of a customer.

“For too long, we’ve had companies solely looking at data as an asset that they can use commercially,” he said.

“We need to have them appreciate very, very firmly that Australians’ personal information belongs to Australians. It’s not to be misused, it absolutely has to be protected.

“And if the Privacy Act is not getting us those outcomes, then we need to look at reforms to the Privacy Act.”

Dreyfus will appear at the National Press Club on Wednesday to discuss the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Optus has appointed consultancy firm Deloitte to review the company’s security systems, controls and processes.

The telco’s chief executive, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, said in a statement last week the review “may also help others in the private and public sector where sensitive data is held and risk of cyberattack exists”.

The Resolve Political Monitor surveyed 1604 eligible voters from Wednesday to Sunday, a period when Bayer Rosmarin pushed back at claims by Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil that the hack was a “basic” attack the company should have been able to stop. The margin of error for the survey was 2.5 percentage points.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has accused the government of being too slow to respond to the breach but Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Optus to pay for the cost of replacing passports, while national law firm Maurice Blackburn said it was preparing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of customers.

The survey found 25 per cent of voters thought the government should pay to reissue Medicare cards, passports, driver licences and other documents when identity details had been breached, but 54 per cent disagreed with this and 21 per cent were unsure.

Support was much stronger, however, for Optus doing more to respond to the breach when so many households were exposed to the consequences.

The survey found 95 per cent of respondents were aware of the hack, either definitely or vaguely, and 49 per cent said their households had been potentially affected – with 31 per cent saying they were a current Optus customer, 9 per cent saying a household member was a customer and another 9 per cent saying a member of their household had been a customer in the past five years.




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