Many of us log in to business websites every day without giving it a second thought, providing our name and contact information so we can browse for bargains and have them delivered to our homes.
The risks are also real for the companies receiving the data. For the more than 96 per cent of Australian businesses that are small businesses, engaging in online activity can be complex and confusing.
Privacy is one of the areas that has the most potential to damage a business’s reputation if information is not used in the way the customer expects.
Emeritus Professor Margaret Jackson and RMIT colleague Jonathan O’Donnell have worked with business, industry and government for the past three years, in a project mainly funded through the Smart Services Cooperative Research Centre.
David Watts, Victorian Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection, has welcomed
the initiative, saying it promotes openness and transparency about the collection and use of personal information by business organisations.
“This is an essential privacy requirement which, when done well, results in greater trust between the parties and in turn fosters healthy relationships between organisations and their customers, resulting in a more efficient economy.
“I support any efforts that assist organisations to better inform themselves and users about good privacy practice.”
“Large companies have the money for specialised legal advice and this informs their policy.
O’Donnell says their research has found that people just don’t read privacy policies, and even when they do, they don’t understand it, and neither do most retailers.
“With Simple Privacy, companies just answer seven questions and an appropriate policy is generated. It’s free and is updated as legislation changes because it is centrally hosted.
“We found that customers don’t read privacy policies all the way through, and if they do, they don’t really understand them.
“They are usually incredibly long and complex documents that may not be legally compliant.
Once Simple Privacy has generated the appropriate policy, an icon, link and short summary are provided to be added to the company’s website
Story: Louise Handran
Photo: Carla Gottgens
This story was first published in RMIT's <em>Making Connections</em> magazine.