Australians have a complex and inconsistent relationship with technology as it relates to trust and ethics, according to research launched today. The report – Humanity and The Machine: An exploration of Tech, Transformation and Trust – shows that while most Australians recognise its benefits, they are still conflicted in their attitudes and behaviours towards technology.
Findings from the report, commissioned by leading creative transformation company WPP AUNZ in partnership with The Ethics Centre, show that 82 per cent of Australians believe technology has benefitted humanity and 75 per cent say it has greatly improved their life. However, 80 per cent want more oversight on the ethical questions around new tech and 63 per cent feel anxious about how quickly technology is changing our lives.
Challenging widely held assumptions that Australians will trade privacy for convenience, 88 per cent strongly value privacy over convenience. And almost 40 per cent won’t choose a product or service if they have data privacy concerns, with a further 70 per cent indicating they would never want their mobile phone number, contacts, messages, financial details or medical information shared.
“There’s an enormous risk of customers feeling cheated by the bargain they make with brands and organisations if they don’t have a shared view of privacy concerns,” WPP AUNZ Chief Strategy Officer, Rose Herceg, says.
“This means brands and organisations run the risk of eroding hard-earned trust if they don’t prioritise privacy. It also reinforces that organisations meeting the ethical, trust and privacy expectations of customers will effectively win. Radical transparency creates real competitive advantage and the opportunities are enormous.
“But we also know that almost three in four Australians expect personalised service from the brands they interact with*. This creates a delicate dance between convenience and privacy for most Australians when they go online. It’s clear that not all privacy is considered equal and yet many brands try to enforce a blanket rule with their policies,” Herceg continued.
Other key findings from the report include:
• Parents worry about their children’s online behaviour and believe they should vet the profiles they create. Most Australian parents (83 per cent) say they would force their child to delete a digital profile that makes them uncomfortable.
• Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) mistakenly believe that they own their child’s digital footprint until they turn 18.
• Most Australians (80 per cent) would never want photos of children and family made available to third parties. This privacy concern was higher than for any other type of data or information.
“Interestingly, despite these concerns, 59 per cent of parents would be comfortable with their child making money from social media,” Herceg said. “When it comes to the monetisation of social media, it seems Australian parents are prepared to grade privacy concerns, further reinforcing the conflicting relationship we have with technology.”
Dr Matthew Beard, Fellow at The Ethics Centre said of the report’s findings: “Our role at the Ethics Centre is to guide organisations and individuals in the process of questioning, discovering and defending values, principles and purpose. This report shines a light on the role ethics plays in technology and reinforces the fact that we all need to better understand not only the relationship, but the impact of tech on our current and future society.
“One of the challenges we face is the increasing gap between those who understand technology and those who don’t. The advancement and complexity of today’s tech makes it seem almost magical, inspiring awe and wonder at the things it can do. This places even more responsibility than ever on the tech companies to act and innovate based on the enormous trust we give them,” he said.
Herceg said the report found that most Australians also want tech to play a central role in improving the quality of public debate, however:
• Almost half believe there’s no room for online debate (46 per cent) and fear expressing their honest views online (48 per cent) or asking questions that reveal their opinions (47 per cent).
• More than half (53 per cent) feel forced to pick a side on every major societal issue from climate change to immigration.
• Three in four (77 per cent) agree that tension between opposing ideas will help produce a better solution, while 62 per cent say being more rebellious leads to the best solutions.
“This presents an opportunity for astute brands, organisations or tech platforms to build a space where we can debate issues with intelligence and compassion. A space where every opinion is welcomed and we can respectfully disagree,” Herceg says.
“Tech should support thoughtful debate that gives people the opportunity to have their minds changed. The brand or organisation that facilitates this will unlock great opportunity.”
The report also looked at how Australians view machine learning, and found we are still cautious about the development of new technology that squeezes out the human factor, with 81 per cent saying companies should be required to demonstrate how innovations will benefit society. Other results show:
• 68 per cent of Australians agree that the best tech helps people remain human and authentic.
• However, almost half of Australians (45 per cent) worry that machines will make them redundant even though 77 per cent agree that machines are unable to do everything that humans can.
• A majority worry that overreliance on tech is reducing their resilience (79 per cent) and ability to ask the right questions (75 per cent). But 84 per cent say machines will never replace human creativity and imagination.
WPP AUNZ CEO, Jens Monsees said: “We’re seeing monumental change across every industry and aspect of life, with technology driving and enabling so much of it. This report assesses our relationship with tech at an important moment in history.
“The trade-off between convenience and trust, the use of tech for good and to generate profits, and its role in enabling public debate are all fascinating aspects of this report. Our WPP AUNZ teams are focused on strengthening the bond between humanity and the machine for the benefit of our clients,” he concluded.
The is the fourth report in WPP AUNZ’s Secrets & Lies series, which highlights the gaps between what Australians think, do and say on a range of topics. The previous three reports focused on personal identity, national identity and ageing and can be found here. The new report focuses on issues around privacy, convenience, trust, the monetisation of social media, the mistrust of online news, the concerns about the future of work and the role of technology in enabling better societal outcomes.
Secrets & Lies Chapter Four is based on a combination of first and third-party data. First-party data includes research commissioned through YouGov with more than 5000 Australians aged 18+ in March 2020. This data has been weighted by age, gender and region to reflect the latest ABS population estimates. Third‑party data includes a vast library of data sources, annotated throughout the report where necessary