Tips to protect your privacy

Your privacy is valuable and worth protecting. Even though the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) requires an organisation or agency to protect your personal information, you should also take responsibility for your privacy. Here’s 10 tips to get you started.

1. Know your rights

The more you know about your rights, the easier it will be for you to exercise them. The Privacy Act contains 13 Australian Privacy Principles (APP) that Australian Government agencies and organisations with an annual turnover of more than $3 million, and some other organisations, must follow.

2. Read privacy policies and collection notices

An organisation or agency, that the Privacy Act covers, must have a clearly expressed and up-to-date privacy policy explaining how they will handle your personal information. The privacy policy will usually be available on their website. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can call them and ask for a copy.

An organisation or agency should also give you a collection notice that explains why they’re collecting your personal information as close as possible to the time they collect it.

If you can’t understand an organisation or agency’s privacy policy or collection notice, ask them to explain it.

3. Always ask why, how and who

Don’t give out your personal information unless you are comfortable with how it is going to be used.

An organisation or agency must only collect your personal information by lawful and fair means and in general must only collect information that is reasonably necessary for their functions. For example, a store loyalty card program is unlikely to need to collect information about your medical history. If you don’t think they should collect the information they are asking for, ask why they want or need it. This helps you to understand how your personal information may be used and whether it may be given to someone else.

There are often situations when you don’t need to give out your personal information. In many situations you also have the right to use a pseudonym or engage anonymously.

4. Check your credit report

Make sure your credit information is correct and up to date. You can access or ask for corrections to your credit report. It’s important to make sure your credit information is correct because it may affect your ability to get a credit card, loan or buy a house. You don’t need to use a credit repair agency to get a mistake on your credit report fixed — you can request it yourself.

5. Protect yourself online

Always be alert to your online safety when using websites and apps. For example, avoid using unsecured wi-fi networks for secure transactions, like banking or online shopping.

Use different passwords for different accounts, make sure you choose strong passwords and change them regularly.

6. Be aware of your mobile security

You may use your smartphone or tablet for many day-to-day transactions, such as email, banking, online shopping and social media. It’s a good idea to keep them secure. For example, use a PIN to lock your device and only download an app from a reputable source.

7. Use security software

Using security software on your computer is one of the simplest ways to protect yourself and your privacy. Good computer security includes installing reputable anti-spyware, anti-virus scanners and firewall software. You should also keep your online security tools up to date.

8. Be careful what you share on social media

If you use social media, make sure you read their privacy policies and choose the privacy settings that best suit your needs.

Your digital footprint can be forever, so think before you share. You may not be able to take back comments or posts if you change your views or someone shares them without your consent. This could result in personal or professional reputational damage, or identity fraud.

9. Don’t leave your personal information lying around

Properly destroying personal information before throwing it out will help to protect you from potential identity theft. This includes shredding documents and physically destroying expired banking and government-issued cards.

Before you throw out or give away your old mobile phone, tablet or computer, make sure you wipe its hard drive and remove the SIM card.

10. Beware of scams

Be careful — there are many online, email and phone scams out there. If you’re not expecting a request to update information, to get a refund, or to win a prize, don’t give out your personal information until you’re sure it’s legitimate and above board.

For more information about protecting yourself online, visit Scamwatch and Stay Smart Online

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