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​Australians Are Concerned About Smart Devices Listening In; Selective About Their Digital Footprint Being Tracked; and Fight Back After Data Breaches - New Unisys Security Index™ Finds

  • Forty-one percent of Australians say they've received social media posts and ads about a topic they talked about aloud
  • Aussie are happy for government to use their digital footprint to track people in an emergency but not to plan public roads and transport infrastructure
  • After a data breach, 15% of Aussies stopped dealing with the organisation that held their data

SYDNEY, Australia, 4 September 2019 – New research from Unisys Corporation reveals that Australians hold strong privacy concerns about smart devices listening in on their conversations and organisations extracting personal information from their digital footprints, according to the new 2019 Unisys Security Index™. 

According to 41 percent of Australian smart device owners say they started receiving social media posts and ads about a topic they had recently talked about aloud, and almost two-thirds of this group say it concerns them. Just over a quarter (28 percent) report that, while they were talking aloud, the virtual assistant in their smartphone or smart watch had asked them for more information or to repeat themselves even though they had not turned it on. Similarly, 26 percent say that, while they were talking aloud, a voice-activated smart speaker had asked them for more information or to repeat themselves even though they had not turned it on. In both cases, at least half of people who experienced this say that it concerns them.

"We live in a hyper-connected world, where wearable devices, smart homes and digital assistants are commonplace in our personal and work lives. A growing component is voice-activated, command-driven digital assistants, embedded in smartphones, smart watches and purpose-built devices such as smart speakers. However, in an environment where the top three security concerns for Australians relate to data theft, there is growing speculation that these wonderful Internet of Things devices will impact our privacy by monitoring our conversations and activity and using it in ways we did not intend,” says Ashwin Pal, director of security services, Unisys Asia Pacific. 

Percentage of Australian smart device owners who believe their devices are listening in:


Yes and it concerns me

Yes but it does not concern me


I started receiving social media posts and ads about a topic I had recently talked about aloud

25% 16% 41%

While I was talking aloud, the virtual assistant in my smartphone/watch asked for more info even though I had not turned it on 

14% 14% 28%

While I was talking aloud, a voice-activated smart speaker asked for more info even though I had not turned it on

13% 13% 26%


Support for Data Collection and Sharing Depends on Trust, Privacy and Security

The 2019 Unisys Security Index research also found Australians are selective about which situations they deem acceptable for an organisation to collect data from social media, online purchases, smartphones and wearable devices that create their digital footprint.

The strongest level of support (41 percent of Australians) is for the government collecting this information to identify who is in the vicinity of a disaster. Yet less than half that number, only 19 percent, support the government monitoring individuals’ travel patterns to plan roads and public infrastructure. More than a quarter (28 percent) support airports and airlines collecting information to efficiently guide a passenger’s journey through an airport, but only 10 percent support an employer doing the same to monitor an employee’s location during the workday.

More than a third of Australians (38 percent) say there is no acceptable situation to collect data from smartphones and wearable devices – the highest level of objection compared to the other three Asia Pacific countries surveyed: New Zealand (36 percent), the Philippines (20 percent) and Malaysia (14 percent).

Similarly, public support varies for organisations sharing an individual’s personal information with other organisations. The highest support is for police sharing information with other law enforcement agencies internationally (66 percent) or domestically (65 percent) to solve a crime. More than half (57 percent) support doctors sharing a patient’s healthcare history with other healthcare providers for a complete view of an individual’s health. And almost half (46 percent) support a government-administered proof-of-identity used to confirm a citizen’s identity to access commercial services such as a bank account. However, only 16 percent support banks sharing a customer’s financial data with another financial service provider to offer a single point of contact for multiple services. The most common reason given for not supporting this is concern is that consumers want control over who has access to their personal data.

“For all scenarios, the top two reasons given by Australians for not supporting their data being shared is that they want control over exactly who has access to their personal information or they don’t want that particular organisation to have access to their data. This marks a concern around privacy, rather than one related to the ability of an organisation to secure the data. It appears driven by a combination of trust in the organisation involved, the purpose given for how the data will be used and the benefit to the individual. To gain public support, organisations must show they meet all three criteria. Organisations must positively prove privacy of customer data before customers reward them with their trust and ultimately their business.”

Aussies Take Action after Data Breaches

The research reveals that organisations are not just at risk of losing data, some will also lose business. Nearly one-third (29 percent) of Australians say they have experienced a data breach in the last year. The most common type of breaches were email hacking (7 percent), suspicious bank account behaviour (7 percent) and stolen credit card details (7 percent). Of those who suffered a data breach, 15 percent said they stopped dealing with the relevant organisation altogether, 12 percent exposed the issued on social media, and 10 percent pursued legal action.

“Consumers hold the business or government agency responsible for not protecting their data, and many Australians are taking action designed to hurt the organisation they trusted to hold their information,” Mr Pal says.

Download the report, infographics, tips and video at

About the Unisys Security Index

Unisys has conducted the Unisys Security Index – the longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally – since 2007 to provide an ongoing, statistically-robust measure of concern about security. The index is a calculated score out of 300 covering changing consumer attitudes over time across eight areas of security in four categories: national security and disaster/epidemic, in the National Security category; bankcard fraud and financial obligations, in the Financial Security category; viruses/hacking and online transactions, in the Internet Security category; and identity theft and personal safety, in the Personal Security category. The 2019 Unisys Security Index is based on online surveys conducted of nationally representative samples of at least 1,000 adults in each of 13 countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, the U.K. and the U.S. The margin of error at a country level is +/-3.1 percent at 95 percent confidence level, and 0.9 percent at a global level. In Australia, the survey was conducted 27 February – 22 March 2019. A follow up survey was conducted 3-12 April, after the 15 March attacks in Christchurch, to assess the impact on attending events. The Australian sample was weighted to reflect national demographic characteristics such as gender, age, and region.

About Unisys

Unisys is a global information technology company that builds high-performance, security-centric solutions for the most demanding businesses and governments on Earth. Unisys offerings include security software and services; digital transformation and workplace services; industry applications and services; and innovative software operating environments for high-intensity enterprise computing. For more information on how Unisys builds better outcomes securely for its clients across the Government, Financial Services and Commercial markets, visit Follow Unisys on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Emily Nowland, The Impact Agency,
+61 413 942 179

Claire Hosegood, Unisys Asia Pacific,
+61 411 253 663,

Unisys and other Unisys products and services mentioned herein, as well as their respective logos, are trademarks or registered trademarks of Unisys Corporation. Any other brand or product referenced herein is acknowledged to be a trademark or registered trademark of its respective holder.