Social media

Last updated: 29 July 2019

On this page

  • What happens to information you share on social media
  • Your rights under the Privacy Act 
  • How to get information removed and how to make a complaint

Social media refers to any online social network. An online social network is a website or app that allows a user to create and share content online, for example, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. This often involves sharing personal information in comments and messages, and photos and videos. 

What happens to the information you share?

If the information you post to the online social network you’re using is publicly available, then anyone can look at it. If you want to limit who can see your information, use the privacy settings.

Even if you use privacy settings, you may not have complete control over who sees or uses the personal information you share. For example, your friends may republish your information to a wider audience than you did.

Also, the information you share online may be permanently recorded. Even when you deactivate your account, your information may remain in archived or old versions of websites, or in comments you’ve made on other people’s pages.

Always read the privacy policy of any online social network you use and choose the privacy settings that best suit your needs.

Your rights under the Privacy Act

The Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) covers organisations with an annual turnover of more than $3 million and operating in Australia, and some other organisations. If the online social network you use is such an organisation, then the personal information you share on it is protected by the Privacy Act. Such organisations include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn.

A number of factors go into deciding if an organisation operates in Australia, including if they have a presence in Australia or carry on a business in Australia. 

You should also note that the Privacy Act doesn’t cover individuals acting in a personal capacity. This means you generally can’t enforce a privacy right against an individual. However, you may have rights under other laws, such as copyright or defamation laws.

If you want information about you removed

If someone has posted information about you on an online social network that you want removed, ask them to take it down. If they refuse, there are other steps you can take.

You can contact the online social network. Most allow you to request that your personal information be removed for privacy reasons.

If you are a school student and the person who posted information you want removed is also a student at your school, then report the problem to a teacher you trust or your school counsellor. Schools generally take bullying very seriously and may be able to speak to the person on your behalf.

If you’re an Australian child experiencing cyberbullying you can also complain to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. The commission’s website also includes information on online safety for parents and families, and resources for teachers.

Make a social media complaint

If you want to complain about how your personal information has been used on an online social network, contact the online social network first. You can usually find out how to complain under their Help or Privacy options. You don’t need to join the network to make a complaint.

If your complaint relates to how another organisation has misused information about you they collected from your social media pages, you should complain to that organisation.

If you’re not happy with an online social network or other organisation’s response, you can lodge a complaint with us

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