Security Market Segment LS
Tuesday, 18 February 2014 00:43

Growing concerns about online privacy

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There’s increasing concern about online privacy for many Australians, particularly mobile users, with around one in 10, or 12%, saying they have personally experienced a privacy issue when using a mobile application.

According to newly published research by security vendor Symantec, more than three out of four survey respondents (78% ) are more concerned about their online privacy than they were five years ago, while more than half (55%) also agreed that they do not have enough control of their personal information online.

“The survey findings reveal a trend in privacy concerns amongst Australians. We are now more concerned about the information we put on the web and the privacy issues associated with that,” said Brenton Smith, Vice President and Managing Director, Pacific region, Symantec.

“The rise in usage of mobile devices and applications has left Australians largely unsure about where and how their personal information is being used and what information companies and cybercriminals alike can access that might invade their privacy.

“With amendments to the Privacy Act due to be enforced in March this year, businesses need to take a hard look at their data privacy processes to ensure they are compliant with the new Australian Privacy Principles.”

The study found survey respondents were comfortable sharing details such as email addresses (59%), names (51%), and date of births (33%) with companies in exchange for free applications, while one out of three (35%) individual survey respondents also admitted to not knowing whether an application can collect and export their personal information. Less than half read the permissions they agreed to when downloading an application (49%), whilst only six in 10 (63%) downloaded applications from a trusted source.

On mobile devices in the workplace, according to Symantec the “blurring line between work and personal use” was also demonstrated in the survey with nearly seven in 10 (68%) Australians using the same mobile device for both.

According to Symantec, more than half of the survey respondents (59%) had no issue with using the same device, and only nine percent (9%) are concerned that sensitive work information could be leaked, with 16% believing corporate information would be put at risk, if the device was lost.

“The survey findings highlight the importance for Australians to educate themselves on the privacy choices they make with their mobile devices and applications. In today’s world, mobile devices and applications play an important role in our lives and it is their ubiquity that makes these tools appealing to scammers and spammers,” Smith said.

Smith says, however, that the good news is that where an application collected and shared personal information, 74% of the survey respondents admitted they were willing to take action and uninstall that application and 53% claimed that they would stop using the application completely.

“Personal data is the currency of the digital world we live in. Internet users today can regain control of their personal information and keep privacy choices in their own hands by taking a common sense approach to online privacy and protection.  One of the first steps to being safer online should involve taking the time to understand the privacy settings and security features and solutions offered for mobile devices and applications. It’s also important to be cautious about giving away personal details in exchange for a free application.  These exchanges can sometimes lead to Internet users having their privacy invaded and ultimately paying a higher price.

“Internet users should also avoid posting information online that they wouldn't do or say to someone in the real world; be cautious about who they connect with online; think before posting photos on networking sites; use different passwords for financial transactions and social networking sites; and be vigilant about the applications they choose to download,” concluded Smith.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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