Australian Renters Wary of Third-Party Apps: Choice Survey Reveals Privacy Concerns

Survey Reveals Widespread Suspicion About Tech Companies Handling Personal Data
27 April 2023
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Despite privacy concerns, many renters feel pressured to use technology platforms when searching for a home. According to Choice's survey of 1,020 renters and the amount of data requested from them, 60% are uneasy about rent-tech applications yet 29% have forfeited applying out of distrust in companies collecting their personal information. 41%, however, still went ahead with it despite feeling uncomfortable doing so.

Renters are increasingly concerned over data insecurity and automated technologies being used in rental application processes, especially amongst younger generations. An alarming 29% of 18 to 34-year-old reported their applications were scored against others for acceptance into properties. 

Kate Bower from Choice consumer advocacy warns this poor regulation could lead to increased housing discrimination, leaving some without a home.

Privacy experts, renters' advocates and academics have expressed concern over a Guardian Australia investigation that revealed the potentially discriminatory use of applicants' personal data by Australian rent-tech company Snug. 

The Choice report follows this finding with results showing the platform's algorithm gives higher scores to those offering more rent. Further, it was uncovered in Snug’s patent application intentions for collecting info such as friend lists, social media networks & ratings from third party platforms were present – suggesting development of a rental credit system could be underway.

The Choice survey reveals renters feeling pressured to pay for background checks on third-party platforms such as 2Apply and Ignite (formerly 1Form). 25% of respondents report paying up in hopes their application stands out. 

Choice is calling for reforms to the Privacy Act that ensure renters are protected, a federal inquiry into automated decision-making technology, and state governments to modernise their tenancy laws to prevent harms related to emerging rental technologies.

- CyberBeat


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