The issue of privacy

The issue of privacy


We live in a time of unprecedented access to online data. Whether we are using the internet for research, to pay bills or to take part in social media; privacy is of greater concern than ever before. Unfortunately, cyber breaches on a previously unimaginable scale are dominating the headlines.

In 2013 a massive cyber attack on the Target chain in the United States affected up to 40 million credit and debit card accounts and compromised the personal information of as many as 110 million consumers. Target’s board members and directors are now facing a shareholder lawsuit that claims they ignored warning signs a breach could occur and misled consumers about the scope of the breach.

In 2011 hackers attacked Sony Corp and accessed account data on more than 100 million users of Sony’s PlayStation Network, Sony Entertainment Online and Sony Pictures. The damage bill to Sony was estimated at $US178million – and not including potential compensation to claimants in the more than 55 class actions that have followed.

Online attacks and IT glitches are devastatingly costly to business and massively undermining to consumer confidence. There has never been a greater need for strong, enforceable and comprehensive privacy laws.

On March 12, the Federal Government unveiled the biggest changes to Australian privacy law in 25 years with the Privacy Amendment Act.  In response to this Act, the Association of Market and Social Research Organisations (AMSRO) has revised its own Market and Social Research Privacy Code to ensure our members continue to follow the highest privacy and ethical standards. AMSRO is also proud to welcome the Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, to our Leader’s Forum on March 20 to discuss the implications of the new Act.

AMSRO also plans to launch another initiative later this month that gives buyers of market and social research additional support with their decision making. 

Market and social research relies on the goodwill and willing participation of the public and as such AMSRO takes privacy very seriously.   It is the only industry body to have developed an industry-specific privacy code, the Market and Social Research Privacy Principles (2003). These Principles were awarded an Australian Privacy Award in 2009. AMSRO members have upheld this privacy code for more than a decade without breach, demonstrating the commitment of AMSRO and its members to protecting consumers’ privacy.

Although Australians care about privacy, it’s not a consideration that is often front of mind – until their privacy is breached and personal information is made publicly available. A recent study conducted by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner found that Australians are becoming increasingly cautious about giving away their personal information.

Market and social research is an essential part of our society, depended on by governments, corporations, charities and individuals to make critical business and policy decisions that affect our nation. It is a time of unparalleled change in the research area as we are able to combine traditional methods with access to exceptional amounts of data.  It’s vital that research is ethically conducted and accurately reported. To ensure this we need rigorous privacy rules, a commitment AMSRO member organsiations continue to undertake.   

Market and social researchers cannot function without the public enthusiastically taking part in research that helps shape the nation's decisions. It hurts us all when Australian companies use research that breaches privacy and at AMSRO we are confident the new legislation and our own commitment to privacy compliance will make these breaches harder.

Nicola Hepenstall, president of AMSRO, managing director of Hall & Partners Open mind

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