Telcos, government agencies least trusted to protect Australians' privacy

Public confidence in government security is so low that half of Australians believe their personal data will be compromised in the next year due to poor security by a government agency, according to a new survey that also found even more believe personal data held by telcos will be compromised.

The figures, which came from a new Unisys Security Insights survey of 1210 Australians, are an indictment of the importance of consumer trust in security measures that, Unisys Asia Pacific security program director John Kendall warned, have so far failed to convince Australians that their data is adequately protected.

“Consumer trust must be earned and maintained,” Kendall said in a statement. “This survey reveals which organisations the public perceives to be most vulnerable. To build trust, an organisation needs to not only take preventative measures, but to make those measure visible to build public confidence.'

Australian government and telco organisations have suffered a series of embarrassing breaches of citizen privacy in the past year, with the likes of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship revisiting privacy policies after breaching the confidentiality of thousands of asylum seekers and, more, recently, distributing the personal details of dozens of world leaders.

Telcos have also suffered their share of ignominious breaches: in March, for example, Optus committed to a massive security review after a series of breaches of personal information. This week, the company was again under fire after it was revealed to be tagging customers' Web traffic visits with their mobile numbers to assist marketing partners. Telstra, for its part, has been fingered in at least three privacy-breach cases last November, last March, and in May 2013.

These and other breaches in recent years have put Telstra on the offensive as CISO Mike Burgess and his team work to shore up the telco's privacy practices. Yet with telcos now set to be forced to comply with new metadata retention legislation, maintaining public trust in their security processes will be particularly important.

According to the Unisys survey, airlines were the most trusted by the public, with only 33 percent expecting a data breach, while banking and finance (46 percent), retail (45 percent), utilities (40 percent), and healthcare (36 percent) completed the leaderboard.

Awareness is often a driving factor in shaping the public's expectations around privacy, Kendall said.

“Many Australians have personally experienced a data breach or have seen media reports of high profile breaches by government and telcos, so they have a low level of trust in the ability of those organisations to protect their data,” he explained.

“Conversely, public scrutiny around the introduction of e-health records and the resulting assurances for how data would be protected has built community trust in healthcare providers’ ability to protect personal information.”

“[Other companies] will need to work to maintain this trust as they continue to capture more and more information about their passengers in a bid to provide personalised end-to-end services.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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Tags John Kendallpersonal dataprivacy lawgovernment agenciesgovernment securityUnisys Security Insightsdata breachoptustelcos

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