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Privacy Commissioner reminds Australians 'It's all about you'

This year, Privacy Awareness Week is being held from 1-7 May 2011. Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim is reminding Australians to take the opportunity to think about the security of their personal information.

"Our message this year is 'privacy: it's all about you'. We are asked for our personal information so often that we sometimes forget that we have privacy rights," Mr Pilgrim said.

"I am urging everyone to use Privacy Awareness Week as an opportunity to reflect on the security of their personal information and take practical steps to protect their privacy. It can be as easy as taking a few minutes to check the privacy settings on your social networking sites and internet browsers."

Mr Pilgrim recommends that people think carefully before revealing personal information – in person, online and when they do business.

"Your information belongs to you. You are under no obligation to hand it over to anyone without knowing what they are going to do with it. Once your privacy has been compromised, it can be difficult to get back."

"Everyone should feel ok about asking a business or government agency why they need their personal information. Of course, there will be occasions when you will need to give out some personal information in order to receive a government benefit or service from a business. However, when you agree to provide others with your personal information, it's in your best interest to understand how it will be used, kept safe and where it may end up," Mr Pilgrim added.

The Australian Privacy Commissioner encourages people to protect their personal information and enforce their privacy rights in three simple ways:

  1. Check their online privacy settings
  2. Think about how much personal information they disclose and
  3. Ask businesses and government agencies what will happen to their personal details when they choose to give it away and read their privacy policies.

Privacy Awareness Week will commence with the release of an animation and online survey about social networking and privacy. These products are a joint initiative of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities. Other materials for agencies and organisations will be released during the week, including privacy awareness materials for websites, intranets and internal newsletters, as well as a number of case notes and FAQs. All these materials will be available at www.privacyawarenessweek.org.

For interview requests please contact:     Ms Leila Daniels     0407 663 968     media@oaic.gov.au

Additional information: What can you do?

Individuals

The OAIC is reminding all Australian's to exercise their privacy rights and to take steps to make sure their personal information is handled appropriately.

Protect your personal information by:

  • Reading privacy policies to know how an organisation protects your information.

  • Asking a few questions next time someone asks you for personal information like your name, date of birth and where you live. What do they want it for? What will they do with it? Who else will see it and how will it be stored? Will they destroy it when they no longer need it? It's your information, don't just hand it over without asking "why"?

  • Checking your online privacy settings so you are aware of how your information is used. It's important to understand what someone else intends to do with your information, to choose who sees your posts when social networking and to exercise you right to 'opt out' of receiving marketing material if you want to

  • Thinking about how much personal information you reveal. It is easier for identity thieves when you make lots of information about yourself public. Also, think about how securely you are disposing of your personal documents – is it safer to put them through a shredder? And remember, pictures and comments you make today on social networking sites may embarrass you in the future.

Business and government

The OAIC is reminding businesses and government agencies that have responsibilities under the Privacy Act 1988 to make sure that the personal information of their customers is handled in accordance with the Act, including giving sufficient notice about why their personal information is being collected and how it will be used and disclosed. It must also be stored securely and destroyed or de-identified if it is no longer needed.

Some privacy tips for business and government agencies include:

  • make sure your IT systems are secure and up to date
  • don't collect personal information that is unnecessary for your business
  • if you do need to collect people's personal information, tell them why you are doing this, what the information will be used for and how long it will be kept
  • make it clear who will have access to that personal information, including any third parties
  • take steps to destroy or de-identify personal information that is no longer required.