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The Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) in the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act)regulate how most Australian and Norfolk Island Government agencies and many private sector organisations, including large businesses, credit bodies (like banks), not-for-profits and private health service providers, handle personal information.  

Personal information is information or an opinion that identifies you or could identify you. Some examples are your name, address, telephone number, date of birth, medical records, bank account details and opinions about you.

But privacy isn’t just about the law. It’s about you and the choices that you make every day. How often do you think about your privacy when doing any of the following everyday things?

Using social networking sites

Do you ever stop to think about who’ll be looking at the information you post?

Have you adjusted your privacy settings?

Getting your ID scanned at bars and clubs

Do you wonder what’s going to be done with your digitised information?

Filling in a form

Do you read the terms and conditions before you sign up?

Shopping or banking online

Do you check the system is secure before providing account or credit card details?

Receiving junk mail, spam or telemarketing calls

Do you ask yourself how they got your details and how to get them to stop sending you stuff?

You probably don’t realise just how many decisions you make about your privacy every day. These decisions are your choices — you can make choices about privacy in a way that works for you.

Social media

Social networking sites are one of the key places for sharing personal information. There’s no problem with staying in touch with friends on social media but you need to be aware of the risks and protect yourself and your friends.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner' s (OAIC) 2013 Community attitudes to privacy survey shows that 60% of young people think that online services, including social media, are the greatest risk to privacy right now. And 33% of young people have posted something on social media that they later regretted.

Social media sites have privacy policies — so make sure you read the terms and conditions, and adjust your privacy settings, so that you are only sharing with friends and people you trust.

Think about the consequences of your actions — your digital identity is real, and once something is out there it’s almost impossible to take it back.

It’s also important to respect your friends and the people around you — think before you post, tag or share photos or information about other people.

For more information on social media, including what to do if someone posts content that you want removed or that you feel threatens, harasses or defames you, see the OAIC’s FAQs on Social Media.

ID theft

ID theft and fraud are on the rise in Australia, and the availability of personal information in the online environment makes it more important than ever to protect your identity.

If an organisation or person wants to collect personal information from you, ask why the information is required, what they will do with it and who will it be disclosed to:

  • Only give your personal information to an organisation that you trust
  • Only give out as much personal information as you need to.
  • Think twice before posting any personal information about yourself online.
  • Make sure the anti-virus software on your computer is up-to-date, and make sure your network is protected by a firewall.
  • Keep an eye on your credit card and bank statements for suspicious transactions.
  • Minimise the amount of personal information you carry around, especially at places where it is likely to get lost or stolen, such as the beach, clubs etc.
  • Shred all documents you no longer need that contain personal information
  • Use the privacy settings on social networking sites.
  • Watch out for scams! Consider signing up for SCAMwatch, or the StaySmartOnline alert service, which are free email alert services provided by the Australian Government
  • Check your credit report with the following major credit reporting bodies:

For more information on identity security, including what to do if you think you have been a victim of identity fraud, see the OAIC’s FAQs on identity security.

The truth about your credit report

These days, everyone uses credit on a daily basis — credit and store cards, Paypal, even utility bills are a credit line.

The ability to get credit is something we take for granted, but if something goes wrong it’s usually at the worst possible time — just as you’re about to commit to a large purchase, or even a house.

The 12 March 2014 changes to the Privacy Act included some big changes to the way that the credit system works in Australia. Some aspects remain the same, and some are different, but the key things to remember are:

  • You have the right to access and request corrections to the information held about you by credit reporting bodies (the organisations that track people’s credit worthiness) and credit providers (banks, mortgage brokers etc).
  • In some cases if you are more than 14 days late on a bill, this information may be added to your credit report — this is your repayment history. This is NOT a default.
  • If you are more than 60 days late on a bill, this is a default and may be recorded on your credit report if the credit provider has followed a certain procedure.
  • A default cannot be recorded for an amount that is less than $150, or if you are under 18.
  • If there is incorrect information in your credit report, you can directly request a correction — you do not need to use a ‘credit repair’ business to do this and its important to know that these businesses cannot get information that is correct removed from your credit report.

> A series of 15 detailed fact sheets about credit reporting are now available

> A one page summary fact sheet about credit reporting for those with limited time

Ten top tips for privacy

  1. Know your rights
  2. Read privacy policies and collection notices
  3. Always ask why, how and who
  4. Check your credit report
  5. Protect yourself online
  6. Be aware of your mobile security
  7. Use security software
  8. Be careful what you share on social media
  9. Don't leave your personal informaiton lying around
  10. Beware of scams