Australian trust in ISP data protection hits new low

Australian coat of arms

Consumer trust in Telco’s and ISPs is in decline in Australia, where new research has found that just 4% of the population has “a lot of trust” in those businesses to safely store user data.

The new report which has been release by Essential Vision was based on a survey of 1,020 people and found that just 29% of respondents even had “some trust”.

Meanwhile another survey, conducted by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) found that 16% said they would go so far as to avoid dealing with a Government body as a direct result of privacy concerns.

Data Protection concerns in Australia

There has been a spate of other data protection issues in the headlines in recent times too. Back in 2014, Australia’s Government accidently published the personal details of almost 10,000 asylum seekers including their full names, nationalities, locations, arrival dates, and boat arrival information.

Just last week, it was revealed that information from the country’s Medicare Card system was for sale on the Dark Web. An urgent review is underway, but there has been no denial so far that the data is genuine.

In addition, there have been regular stories about officials accessing data without permission for various different purposes.

Bad timing

The culmination of these various cases has apparently seen an erosion in trust in the ability of Australian organisations to protect private data. This must be concerning for authorities, coming as it does just a couple of months after mandatory data retention laws came into effect.

As a result of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill, Australian ISPs are now required to retain user data. This may only be metadata rather than the content of communication and online activities, but this data can nonetheless prove extremely revealing.

In that context, it is clear that there is much to be done by ISPs and Telco’s to improve consumer confidence as they seek to implement what is already a hugely unpopular policy, which has driven many Australians to turn to a VPN to protect themselves online.

Some positives

The survey wasn’t quite all doom and gloom. It did find that the Australian Federal Police (AFP), local police forces, and ASIO enjoyed a trust rating of 64%, which is an improvement of 15% on the previous year’s survey. And overall trust in the Government to protect data also rose slightly, up by 3% to 43%.

However, the survey makes it clear that protection of personal data is something which Australians have genuine concerns about and both public and private sector businesses have work to do to address these worries.

Of course, plenty of Australians are taking matters into their own hands and signing up for a VPN such as IPVanish or ExpressVPN to ensure that everything they do online is protected by strong encryption and cannot be traced back to them.

This will mean that a lot of personal data which is routinely collected cannot be traced back to you. But plenty of people will still be required to enter personal information into online systems in order to use public or private services. This data, which is stored in other systems, remains vulnerable and it seems there is much to be done in Australia before this data is secure and, just as importantly, the Australian public believe that it is.