Good habits to protect your privacy

May 3, 2022

Personal information is information about who you are, what you do and what you believe. It can be information such as your name, date of birth, address or phone number, as well as other information about you such as your race, religious beliefs or even credit information. It can also include your photograph, fingerprint and even your voice print. Anything that can be used to identify you as an individual could be considered personal information.

This information is important and could place you at risk if it is not properly protected. While the privacy laws in Australia require organisations and government entities to handle your personal information in a certain way, the protection of your personal information starts with you!

Here are some simple steps you can take to create a solid foundation of good privacy habits to help protect your personal information.

Read and understand the privacy policy

Organisations and government agencies, that are covered by the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act), are required to have a privacy policy. The purpose of which is to set out clearly how that organisation/agency will handle your personal information as well as why and how they are collecting it.

If you intend to disclose your personal information to an organisation/agency, you should take the time to read their privacy policy to understand how they will use your personal information. The privacy policy should also set out the process for you to contact the organisation/agency, or even how you can make a complaint to them in relation to their compliance with the Privacy Act.

And lastly, don’t be afraid to contact the organisation/agency if you have any questions or concerns about their privacy policy and how the information will be handled.

Ask yourself who, why and how

Whenever you are asked to disclose your personal information, make sure you know:

  • who you are disclosing your personal information to;
  • why the information is being requested or required; and
  • how the information will be used.

This information should be readily available in that organisation’s privacy policy.

Know your rights

The Privacy Act provides you with a number of rights in relation to how organisations/agencies can handle your personal information. These rights are set out in the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) contained in the Privacy Act, and include, for example, the right to:

  • remain anonymous when dealing with an organisation/agency (subject to some exceptions);
  • access to personal information an organisation holds about you;
  • request for the organisation to correct your personal information that it holds; and
  • request not to receive direct marketing communications from the organisation.

It is important to know and understand your rights. They are there to provide you with some control over how your personal information is handled by the organisations/agencies that you disclose it to.

Develop good habits to protect your privacy

This is particularly important in relation to your online habits. Simple things like using strong passwords can help reduce the risk that your personal information will be accessed without your authorisation.

Our previous article called “Take Control of Your Privacy” provides some further great tips to develop good habits.

For more information on privacy policies and your rights, please head to https://www.oaic.gov.au/.