A special Roy Morgan telecommunications industry Trust Survey asked Australians about the telecommunications companies they trust and distrust, and what worried them about the recent data breach at Optus.
The survey reveals that the data breach has driven distrust across the industry with a majority of Australians indicating they have either no trust in any telco or that they distrust all telcos.
Unsurprisingly, Optus is currently the most distrusted telecommunications brand in Australia with more people now saying they distrust Optus than trust, which is a substantial difference to what was seen in the recent Roy Morgan Risk Report of August 2022 which had only a marginal Net distrust score.
The normally deeply distrusted Telstra appears to have been the main beneficiary with results indicating that more respondents say that they trust Telstra compared to those who distrust the brand.
Putting aside the asymmetric results for Australia’s two largest telecommunications companies in this Snap SMS Poll, smaller players including Aussie Broadband, iiNet, and TPG, mirror their top-3 most trusted telco rankings we see in our monthly tracking of trust and distrust.
We also asked respondents what worries them about the Optus data breach and what is clear from the responses is that the data breach has made Australians highly aware and concerned about the risks of data piracy and privacy in general.
By impacting almost half of the Australian population it has had the potential to drive distrust higher than was seen during the Cambridge Analytica scandal which harvested 50 million Facebook profiles in 2018.
When respondents were asked to name the worries they had about the data breach at Optus there were a substantial number of respondents worried about the broader implications of the breach as well as specific concerns around the lack of communication and ability to respond to a crisis:
- “Breaches are always happening with large companies. It worries me that companies do not take more responsibility to compensate for losses.”
- “Confidentiality and privacy are gone. The rights of the individual are gone, and our identity has been reduced to digital data.”
- “The ease with which the data was stolen and why they store all those details once you’ve proven your identity. It’s totally unnecessary.”
- “The apparent ease with which corporate (and individual) digital security precautions can be overcome. Victims that the personal data relates to will forever be at risk of identity theft as the genie can’t be put back once the data is stolen.”
- “I worry that all telcos in Australia could be vulnerable to the same kind of hack. This means that identification information about any person whose data has been compromised could fall into the hands of people who conduct scams and identity theft. This means many are faced with the hassle and expense of getting new documents issued. The stress on these people will be immense, and not their fault. If companies can’t keep data safe they should not be permitted by the government.”
- “Identity theft, breakdown of trust in services to keep our information safe, mental health impacts on people already impacted by pandemic, climate change, disasters.”
- “My data is now for sale, there’s nothing they will do about it and I’m in a locked in contract so I can’t change providers.”
- ”It’s personal information. I am a former customer and I question why they still have my information on file and if was not destroyed when I left them.”
- “There’s a lack of information over how it occurred and who is behind it.”
- “The poor cyber security systems and a lack of management procedures on how to respond to such a crisis.”
Commenting on the findings, Roy Morgan CEO Michelle Levine said: “This special Roy Morgan Snap SMS Poll on trust and distrust of telecommunications companies reveals that a breach of data and security as recently experienced has a significant impact on the industry as a whole, as well as on individual brands. The recent breach has also raised privacy concerns to a whole new level.
“We now see that almost a third of Australians actively distrust telcos and more than 50% of the population either distrusts ‘All’ brands or trusts ‘None’. We would expect that in our next Risk Report we will see this negatively impact the Net Distrust Score ranking of the telecommunications industry as a whole.
“The poll has shown that distrust for Optus is substantial and Net Distrust is higher than any other brand. It appears that Telstra which is normally the most distrusted telco, may have benefitted from the breach and now has a greater number of respondents who trust than distrust. And with the vulnerability of the industry, further data breaches are likely to impact all telco brands Net Trust and Distrust scores.
“Respondents are worried about their data security with large companies and concerned that confidentiality and privacy has gone. There’s a general unease about how easily data can be hacked and what can then happen to stolen identities. There are also those who wonder why a company would hold onto data about their former customers long after they’re gone.
“The underlying message to consider is that increasing distrust can heavily impact commercial and economic outcomes for businesses and brands. Although trust is important for building human connections, distrust is the bellwether for an unsustainable future.
“One final observation is that risk assessments and procedures by telco executives and company directors need to formally factor-in distrust – indeed distrust should be on the risk register of every board in Australia.”