Nearly 50% of Aussies were victims of a data breach in the last year

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A new survey from the Office of the Australian Information Commission (OAIC) has revealed that nearly half of all Australians have had their data stolen or compromised. The survey assessed Aussies’ attitudes towards key privacy issues, as well as what they do to protect their information and safeguard their privacy. The survey also aimed to understand how this changed since the last report was published in 2020. 

There have been some notable shifts in public awareness and attitudes toward privacy. High-profile data breaches have drawn attention to how personal information is collected and retained by companies, and why your data should be protected. The increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence and facial recognition has allowed Aussies to think deeply about how their personal data is being collected and used.

Consequently, 84% of respondents want more choice and control over how their personal information is collected and used. 

47% of respondents said they’d been informed by an organisation that they had been subject to a data breach in the 12 months prior to taking the survey in 2023. Among others, the data breach statistic involved those that fell victim to the ransomware attacks on Medibank, Optus, and Latitude over the last year. Three-quarters of these respondents said they’d experienced harm as a result of the breach, with over half seeing an increase in spam or targeted scams. 29% even had to replace key government documents, like a driver's license or passport. 

Aussies want to protect their data - they just don't know how

Nine out of 10, or 90% of respondents have a clear understanding of why their personal information needs to be protected. However, only half know some steps they can put in place to protect themselves. This creates a gap of 39% between people who understand why their information needs to be protected and those who know how. 

Australians care about their privacy but don’t feel as in control of their personal information as they’d like to be. The survey shows they also don’t have enough knowledge of privacy and data protection rights. The survey illustrated that one in five (or 21%) of Aussies claimed to have ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ knowledge of privacy rights. This level of knowledge decreased with age, with 29% of young adults (18-24) claiming to have the most knowledge, compared to 13% of those 65 and over. 

“Providing Australians with the right information and offering real privacy choices will empower them to protect their privacy,” Angelene Falk, the Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner emphasised in OAIC's press release

The OAIC will use the findings from this survey to review the Privacy Act. Their aim is to increase community trust in the way personal information will be collected, used, and retained. 

How to keep your data safe

To keep your personal information safe, the OAIC recommends taking the following measures:

  1. Know your privacy rights.
  2. Treat your personal information as an asset. Only share it with trustworthy people and organisations. 
  3. Take action to protect your privacy. Adjust your privacy settings, use strong, unique passwords, and read privacy policies to learn exactly how your information will be used. Additionally, always check the website, email, SMS, or phone call is not a scam before providing any personal information. 
  4. Talk about privacy with your friends and family. For children especially, it is imperative they learn how to be safe online and protect their personal information. 
  5. Follow the OAIC to keep up to date on privacy news, tips, and resources. 
Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah Geremia
Hannah has had over six years of experience in researching, writing, and editing quality content. She loves gaming, dancing, and animals, and can usually be found under a weighted blanket with a cup of coffee and a book.

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