Public trust of privacy protections in government slipping

By Julian Bajkowski

Public trust in how well the government handles the privacy of personal information that it holds has slipped over the last five years, according to new research released by the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The OAIC’s latest Community Attitudes to Privacy report has found that trust in government agencies on the privacy front fell to 69 per cent this year compared to 73 per cent in 2007.

The figures indicate an apparently growing suspicion on how the government uses personal information, despite an apparently conflicting desire for more personalised services coupled with the expectation that one agency should know what another knows with authentication and client interactions.

The good news for mandarins is that far more people trust government services than don’t and the public sector placed third out of a dozen sectors and businesses.

Health services providers ranked the most trustworthy on 91 per cent (down one per cent) – an area that a number of government providers ranging from Medicare to public hospitals could easily take credit for.

If public servants want lessons on how to improve privacy perceptions, banks and financial services providers could have some answers after that sector placed second and dramatically improved its trustworthiness by galloping from 58 per cent in 2007 to 74 per cent in 2013.

Organisations that now have a trust deficit include retailers (34 per cent), real estate agents (33 per cent) and the ever creative debt recovery industry (31 per cent).

Social media companies were rated the worst on just 9 per cent, followed by the e-commerce industry on 26 per cent.

Age, it appears, also wearies trust on privacy matters.

“There was a pattern of declining trust with increasing age in relation to nearly all types of organisations,” the report said, noting that nearly half of over 65 year olds rated retailers as trustworthy.

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