Almost half of Australians adopt fake identities online: ACMA survey

Forty-seven per cent of 2509 Australians surveyed gave false details online because of privacy concerns

Australians have admitted to providing false personal details online in order to protect themselves, according to the results of an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) survey.

The report, Digital Footprints and Identities, was conducted by Taverner Research on behalf of ACMA with 2509 Australians in March 2013. The research was carried out to find how willing Australians were to disclose personal information about themselves online.

ACMA found that 47 per cent of respondents gave false details online. This was because they considered disclosing personal information a risk to their reputation or personal safety.

However, the majority of respondents felt comfortable providing personal information to government organisations such as the Australian Taxation Office, Centrelink and Medicare than commercial enterprises. This was because government departments were considered to have better data security.

Respondents were asked what information they would provide to gain access to an online government service. Three out of four participants said they would be willing to provide their full name, gender and date of birth. Fifty per cent of respondents said they would provide their home address, phone number and place of birth.

However, only 28 per cent would provide their current location and 20 per cent were willing to share employment details.

According to ACMA chairman Chris Chapman, Australians are putting “considerable thought” into the construction of their digital identities.

“With personal data becoming a key asset in the digital economy, protecting against unwanted intrusions, embarrassment and financial loss is crucial to how individuals manage their online interactions,” he said in a statement.

To help with online privacy, Chapman suggested people conduct a personal identity audit and use privacy enhancing tools (PETs) such as digital key-chains and password vaults.

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