Is Big Brother watching you at work?

Few Australian have absolute faith in the privacy of their medical records, bank accounts, employee records, office email and telephone communications and information on the Internet, a MasterCard International survey has found.

The Australasian Ideals survey asked 400 Australian consumers to rate their privacy on a scale of one to 10, with one indicating absolutely no privacy and ten indicating total privacy. The survey found that only five per cent believed their bank account details were totally safe, while only three per cent had complete confidence in the privacy of their medical records.

Australians gave bank account privacy 4.8 out of 10 on average, while privacy of medical records scored 5.9 out of 10.

At work, too, Australians feel their privacy is threatened. Eight per cent felt they had total privacy at work (rated 5.9 out of 10 on average), however 14 per cent felt there was absolutely no privacy surrounding office e-mail (4.5 out of 10). Thirteen per cent said there was no privacy for office telephone calls (5.4 out of 10) and six per cent said they believed their employee records weren't private (6.5 out of 10).

Online privacy was also a concern. Twenty-three per cent felt that releasing personal information on the Internet was totally unsafe (3.5 out of 10) while 30 per cent said they believed it was absolutely unsafe to send confidential information via email (3.6 out of 10).

Privacy, with its ethical implications, is a very topical subject today. Corporations and governments are increasingly focusing their attention on issues of privacy, confidentiality, information sharing and even employee monitoring. Australians are trusting, however, when it comes to their colleagues -- 63 per cent said they would trust some of their colleagues with personal information.

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