Creepy or cool? - KPMG Australia
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Creepy or cool? KPMG survey reveals consumers’ data privacy concerns

Creepy or cool?

In a new report by KPMG International, 55 percent of consumers said they had decided against buying something online due to privacy concerns.


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The report, ‘Creepy or cool? Staying on the right side of the consumer line also found that less than 10 percent of consumers believe they have control over the way organisations handle and use their personal data today, with respondents in most countries saying that privacy control is more important than the potential convenience gained from sharing personal data.

Australian findings

The survey of nearly 7,000 consumers included 500 from Australia. Almost one-quarter of Australian consumers said they were extremely concerned about how companies handle and use personal information.

The ideas that people in Australia find most ‘creepy’ are:

  • selling of personal data to third parties (82 percent of global respondents agreed)
  • apps that access personal data 
  • personalised billboards based on their previous purchase behavior
  • personalised adverts based on their personal emails
  • companies contacting them based on their location and previous use.

The survey also found that people in Australia tend to read at least some of all privacy policies they come across online. Over nine in ten take steps to protect themselves online.

Other Australian headline findings were:

  • Law enforcement bodies, health providers and banks are the organisations most trusted with personal data in Australia. Social media and gaming companies are not considered trustworthy with personal data.  
  • Six in ten people in Australia expect to have LESS online privacy in 10 years’ time and just one in six expect to have more.
  • The scenario people in Australia are most accepting of is having a tracking device on their vehicle for use by the emergency services. 
  • Younger people are more open to the use of personal data where free or cheaper technology is included in the deal. 
  • Millennials are far less likely than other age groups to be concerned about hackers and slightly more likely than older age groups to say their main concern is their data being shared with a third party. 

Gary Gill, KPMG Australia Forensic Partner, said: “The most effective thing organisations can do to assure customers that they can be trusted with people’s data is to tell them what they intend to do with the information and to assure them it won’t be shared with third parties.”

“They also need do demonstrate strong cyber security systems. Failure to imbed privacy into the DNA of their business strategy could ultimately lead to the extinction of a business given how closely consumers and regulators alike are paying attention to how organizations collect, store and use personal data.”

Gary Gill added: “Australian companies also need to be aware of mandatory data breach reporting, which is coming into force here next year. This has broad implications for companies who will be required to report breaches.”

Global findings

‘Creepy’ versus ‘cool’
When it comes to the global attitudes on the usages of personal data, consumers draw the line in dramatically different places.

What one consumer finds ‘creepy’…

  • 82 percent are not comfortable with the sale of their data to third-parties in exchange for the speed, convenience, product range, home delivery and price comparison that online shopping offers.
  • 55 percent said a free fitness tracking device that monitors the well-being of users and produces a monthly report for them and their employer is crossing the line.

Another finds cool…

  • 78 percent think telematics devices that enable emergency services to track their customers’ vehicles are a good thing.
  • 57 percent are happy to have a smart energy meter installed that enables a provider to deduce how many people live in a home, when they eat and sleep, and the appliances used.

While concerns around the ‘creepy line’ vary, the overall top three concerns about the way organisations are handling and using their personal information were: unwanted marketing; personal information being sold on to third-parties and lack of secure systems. The survey found that strong cyber security systems (32 percent) are the most effective thing an organisation can do for customers to trust them with their personal data.

Data sharing

Over half of survey respondents said they were willing to share their gender, education or ethnicity online, while a considerably lower proportion were happy to share more sensitive information, such as location (16 percent), address (14 percent) or medical records (13 percent).

Consumers are increasingly taking matters into their own hands, with half of survey respondents saying they already delete their internet browser cookies or manage their social media settings. Almost one-third even use incognito or ‘do not track’ modes, while a quarter percent use encryption.

Other global highlights

  • 57 percent of people fail to read, or only skim, privacy policies on entering websites.
  • Unwanted marketing (59 percent) was cited as consumers’ top concern about businesses using their personal data, followed by their data being sold to third-parties (58 percent) and organizations having unsecure systems (55 percent).
  • Over two-thirds of people are not comfortable with smart phone and tablet apps using their personal data.
  • In all markets but one, at least 75 percent of respondents said they were uneasy with their online shopping data being sold to third-parties.

Further information

Ian Welch
Senior Communications Manager, KPMG
T: 02 9335 7765 / 0400 818 891

parade crowd on side of street

Crossing the line

Staying on the right side of consumer privacy.


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