Aussie govt agencies fail privacy test

The Australian government has failed to meet "basic" online privacy requirements, according to an investigation that suggests its own agencies are hindering the push to increase Australian Internet usage.

SYDNEY (ZDNet Australia)--The Australian government has failed to meet "basic" online privacy requirements, according to an investigation that suggests its own agencies are hindering the push to increase Australian Internet usage.

An audit of government Web sites found that nearly one-third failed to meet the basic requirement of displaying a privacy statement, more than a year after the government imposed a deadline for agencies to get their Web sites up-to-scratch on privacy issues.

The audit was carried out to determine whether Australian government agencies were providing Internet users with information concerning the way their personal information is handled.

“The results of the Web sites audit are overall disappointing,” the Federal Privacy commissioner, Malcolm Crompton, said.

Crompton said Internet users concerns over privacy issues “should not be underestimated”.

Results from a commissioned report on privacy revealed that 75 percent of users surveyed were concerned about what happened to their personal information when using the Internet.

The privacy commissioner said in a statement that unless government agencies provide “strong online privacy assurances” public concern will continue to hinder the use of government agencies Web sites.

The government has carried out three audits into privacy compliance by its agencies' Web sites since 1999.

The first investigation revealed that only 18 percent of Web sites displayed a privacy statement. In 2000, 57 percent had complied with the government's requirements and the latest audit revealed 69 percent of Web sites had abided by the privacy conditions set out.

Crompton said that agencies need to devote more attention to privacy guidelines. "After all, what is being asked of agencies is not unreasonable or difficult. It is simply a matter of them paying more attention to the privacy implications of their Web sites than they have to date," he said.

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