Are consumer powers growing?

Bec Fary / July 04, 2013 10:46 AM

Industry leaders say changes to privacy laws will give more power to internet users, but consumers need to be more mindful of the data they’re giving away. 

Speaking yesterday at the launch of Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ latest media forecast, industry leaders said developments in internet usage have created a need to overhaul privacy law.

Australia’s Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, said recent privacy law reforms give internet companies a new set of responsibilities.

“I think this is a perfect time for Australian organisations to take stock of what they’re holding in terms of personal information,” he said.

A Privacy Amendment, called the Australian Privacy Principles, was passed by Parliament late last year.

The amendments mean consumers will have to be told how their personal information is going to be used and given opportunities to “opt-out” of tailored marketing.

Pilgrim called the new laws, which go into effect in March next year, the most significant changes to privacy law since the Privacy Act of 1988.

“Organisations are going to have to re-visit their systems,” he said.

“Why are we collecting certain types of information? Do we need to do it? And if we do, have we got the right security systems in place to be able to protect the information?

“If it goes terrible wrong, they’ll lose trust, reputation and their customers and that’ll impact the bottom line.”

Simon Hackett, founder of ISP Internode and director of the iiNet Group, said websites like Facebook capitalise on relaxed privacy settings.

He said Facebook’s motivations on privacy settings are opposed to its users

“Facebook’s incentive is to get you to publish as much as possible because their value is in the aggregate data, not in you merely exchanging data with five of your friends,” he said.

“People, especially young people, are not nearly as concerned about privacy on the internet as their older peers might be.

“Perhaps they’ll be more concerned in 30 years’ time when that embarrassing photograph didn’t get deleted and they’re running for parliament.”

He said the date internet companies collect is growing.

“You’re collecting so much data and because the cost of storing the data is plummeting, no one has the time or inclination to delete any of it.

“It’s all going to hang around,” he said. “It’s going to come back to benefit us or to haunt us in 30 years’ time.”

You can read an edited transcript of the panel discussion, Rise of the Individual: Privacy, Piracy and Data, at the PwC website.  

For a list of PwC's key entertainment and media growth figures, see our other news post

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