A new report from identity management specialist Okta looked at the state of digital identity in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
"Our survey suggests that consumers around the world have only a vague understanding of how much of their data is being tracked, where, when, and by which organisations," the report concludes.
For example, 39% of Australians do not think online retailers collect data about their purchase history, and 45% do not think their social media posts are being tracked by social media companies.
But this may be changing: 96% of Australians are aware of the COVIDSafe app, and 29% say the pandemic has made them more aware of data tracking.
There is clear concern about privacy, with 74% of Australians worrying that data collection for COVID-19 containment will sacrifice too much privacy. In the US, that figure rises to 84%.
On the other hand, 28% of all respondents said COVID-19 has made them more open to the possible benefits of data tracking.
There needs to be a quid pro quo, whether it accrues to the community (as with COVID-19 tracking) or the individual (eg, in the form of an improved user experience or the receipt of relevant content).
Even then, there is nuance: the "vast majority" of respondents are unwilling to share their data to help law enforcement.
More than 80% of Australians are uncomfortable sharing any type of data, and they are most concerned about biometrics, passwords and offline conversations. Yes, 40% of Australians believe their offline conversations are being tracked by at least one type of company, and 20% think the government is doing it.
The strength of these concerns can be seen from the reluctance to sell data to companies. 37% of all respondents said they would not sell their data, and another 27% weren't sure whether payment would be sufficient. In addition, 76% said there was some portion of their data that they would not sell – if there's anything surprising in that number, it's that it isn't larger.
What sort of price tag do Australians have in mind? 31% want $100 or more for access to their purchase history.
Location data is a particular concern: 82% of Australian respondents are uncomfortable with its collection, yet 34% would sell it for less than $100. In all countries, women were more concerned about their location data than men were.
Worryingly, 26% of Australians said they were willing to sell their passwords, and 11% would accept less than $100 for them.
"Okta's Cost of Privacy Report reveals that most Australians place a high value on their privacy, with two in five Australians (43%) saying they are never comfortable with any form of data collection for any reason. This is further reinforced by the fact that when Australians were asked whether they'd be more willing to share data with companies if they could 'cash in', 39% of Australians said no," Okta APAC general manager Graham Sowden told iTWire.
"Interestingly, while over three quarters of Australians are uncomfortable with social media companies, search engines, and advertisers collecting their data, 45% do not think their social media posts are being tracked by social media companies. This shows that Australians' understanding of identity and privacy is lagging behind the rate of digital transformation.
"There's an interesting dichotomy as people struggle with the trade-off between accessing and benefiting from digital services, whilst trying to protect their privacy. Few people understand the scope of their online identity and the extent to which government agencies and companies collect their data. In order to strike a balance between privacy and innovation – so users feel in control of their online identity – they will need to demonstrate that they've taken the precautions to secure and protect the data they collect."