Dangers lurking in your terms and conditions

 

AUSTRALIANS are so worried by the digital harvesting of personal information the businesses involved could face a consumer backlash.

And there is growing discontent with those vast "terms and conditions" sections on websites which we routinely click without reading - often because they are so long and dense.

But its those sections which often give companies the right to mine our private data.

That's the warning from polling which will be used to guide a new organisation aimed at protecting us from the use and abuse of information we might not even realise we have given away.

Some 75 per cent of us are uncomfortable with digital platforms selling our information to their businesses, according to responses to an Essential Research survey.

And two-thirds of us are not happy with companies using that personal information to tailor products and services.

Just 19 per cent said they read and understood the terms and conditions of websites they visited.

 

Our personal information is being sold to companies at an alarming rate.
Our personal information is being sold to companies at an alarming rate.

 

Government use of this data collection is also bothering us.

Some 58 per cent of respondents were uncomfortable with commercial providers giving our personal information to government agencies on national security grounds.

And 56 per cent are bothered by a government collecting facial recognition pictures, even for use in verifying child access to online content.

The Australia Institute think tank today will formally launch its Centre for Responsible Technology under director Peter Lewis, the founder and chief of Essential Research.

Mr Lewis told news.com.au the protection of consumers from exploitation during the digital revolution was akin to the campaigns against the exploitation of child labour during the industrial revolution.

And it would become something businesses would have to deal with.

Mr Lewis said, for example, a consumer might have a choice between a superannuation fund which pledged to keep personal data confidential and one which could not guarantee it would not be passed on.

Mr Lewis said the survey findings "reflect increased public distrust at errata models at the very heart of the business strategies of big tech organisations lie Facebook and Google".

"What is most confounding about these results is that the public is uncomfortable with the use of data in the precise ways they routinely consent to it being used," he said.

The "good data" inaugural projects of the Centre for Responsible Technology will be aimed at "a set of guard rails and red lines around the way organisations handle personal information".

"With more and more organisations building their models around the use of personal information we need a total rethink of data: Is it the pool of the information economy that powers the future or is it like uranium which is dangerous to handle and impossible to dispose of?" Mr Lewis said

"These are lively debates globally and the Centre for Responsible Technology aims to give ordinary Australians a seat at the table."



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